When Chelsea signed Pedro Rodriguez from Barcelona in August 2015 a lot was expected from the Spanish winger, and rightly so. The World Cup winner had risen through the ranks at the Catalan giants and won every honour possible with them, including an impressive three Champions League and five Spanish La Liga medals.
His impact at Chelsea was noticeable immediately, with a goal and an assist leading to a man of the match performance on his debut away at West Bromwich Albion. His performances slowly declined, however, as he ended up with eight goals in what was not only an underwhelming season for Pedro, but for Chelsea in general.
Many began to question whether playing alongside the likes of Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Andres Iniesta had made the Spanish international look more accomplished as a footballer than he actually was. It appeared as though he was being found out in the more physical Premier League. Anyone could put in impressive displays when playing in the same team as Lionel Messi week in, week out, right?
With these doubts looming over him, Pedro and the rest of his Chelsea teammates entered the 2016/17 season with a new manager in Antonio Conte and a new sense of cautious optimism. Now in March 2017, both the player and club’s form are deservedly receiving high plaudits, but what has changed for the winger?
Chelsea’s formation change has been much publicised under Antonio Conte this season, with the Italian switching to a 3-4-3 formation in September. Since then Chelsea have been almost unstoppable. One of the most improved performers amongst the team is Pedro, who has excelled playing in the front three.
The quick movement and interlinking between himself, Eden Hazard and Diego Costa has resulted in a combined 40 goals and 18 assists already this season for the trio, and the range of goals that Pedro has scored highlights just how much freedom the front three are allowed in this current set-up.
The Spaniard’s goal against Manchester United at Stamford Bridge back in September showed his opportunistic traits, as he capitalised on a lapse in concentration on behalf of the opposition back four. He expertly dribbled around the on-rushing David De Gea, before slotting home from an acute angle.
Pedro is used to scoring big goals in big games. He, of course, has scored in a Champions League final against Manchester United for Barcelona, and he has continued this knack so far this season. His goal against Tottenham drew Chelsea level against their arch London rivals and gave The Blues crucial momentum as they went on to secure a vital victory.
Receiving possession on the left-hand side of the front three, just outside the penalty area, he turned on the spot superbly before caressing the ball into the back of the net. This clinical finishing, which was evidently lacking in the 2015/16 season, is an important factor behind Pedro’s resurgence this term.
With nine assists to support his 11 goals, so far, Pedro’s involvement clearly goes further than just finding the back of the net himself. The chemistry between him, Hazard and Costa has been the difference between Chelsea and their other Premier League rivals this season. It allows them to score all manor of goals, whether it’s breaking at pace or intricate, one touch passing around the penalty area.
The Blues recent win against West Ham at the Olympic Stadium showcased their counter-attacking prowess. Both Hazard and Pedro broke forward after N’Golo Kante had won possession deep inside his own half. Hazard squared it to Pedro, and despite the Belgian’s effort not being the best of passes, Pedro played a first-time return ball to Hazard, finding the space perfectly in between the two West Ham defenders The weight of pass was judged to perfection and the move was sumptuously finished off by the Belgian. Within a blink of an eye, Chelsea were on their way to another victory.
Similarly, it was another one-touch pass resulted in N’Golo Kante scoring the fourth goal in the demolition of Manchester United in the same September fixture Pedro scored in. His exquisite little flick set the Frenchman on his way as he danced his way through the defence before finding the back of the net.
If Chelsea’s great form continues, as it looks like it will, then Pedro will record some seriously impressive statistics by the end of the season. Beyond the number of goals and assists with which he has contributed, his work rate and determination should not be underestimated.
Once billed as a luxury player, the Spanish international is showing this season he is a creative talent, and so much more. Whilst he may be overshadowed in the player of the year nominations at Chelsea (thanks to the equally outstanding season most of his teammates are having), Pedro’s growing influence in this Chelsea team is now becoming more and more recognised by the Chelsea faithful, and indeed the wider footballing world.
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