Chelsea were not at their best on Saturday, but they did manage to come from behind to take all three points against Watford. Pedro was one of their key players last season and he showed why he should be a regular starter with an impressive attacking performance at Stamford Bridge. The Spaniard was started alongside Eden Hazard and Alvaro Morata in a front three after an encouraging display against AS Roma during the week.
It didn’t take long for the 30-year-old to make his mark on the game as he scored the opening goal with a superb finish at the beginning of the first half. The reason why Pedro has become a prominent figure under Antonio Conte is his movement and quality in the final third. There are few better finishers at the club and his ability to make the most of his opportunities makes him a good player to have alongside the two higher-profile attacking options.
During the match, he attempted three shots and offered good support to Morata and Hazard. Opposition defenders are often focused on those two, which means that there is space for the third attacker to exploit if he is on his game. Pedro is excellent at making intelligent runs to threaten the opposition defence.
Aside from his direct goal threat, Pedro made three key passes during the match against Watford and contributed the assist for the equalising goal. It was a good cross in to find Michy Batshuayi and the former Barcelona man displayed a calmness that was alluding many other at the time. Chelsea were up against it and the pressure was on to avoid a third successive Premier League defeat. This is why his assist was so impressive and serves as another indication that he is a player for the big occasion.
Work rate isn’t a trait often linked to players that have come up through La Masia and broken through at Barcelona, but Pedro possesses it in spades. For this system to work, Conte needs every player to run himself into the ground for the team and Pedro did that on Saturday. His effort and commitment didn’t drop, even when the team went 2-1 down and he should be commended for that. His defensive contribution can be shown by the two ball recoveries that he completed during the match.
Has he cemented his legacy at Chelsea?
The 30-year-old is often forgotten about in discussions of Chelsea’s most important players. There are a lot of good players in the Blues’ squad and their first eleven is filled with talent. However, there is nobody that possesses the winning mentality that Pedro has. The only other player that rivals him in this area is compatriot Cesc Fabregas.
During his career, Pedro has won 14 major trophies, including five La Ligas, three Champions Leagues, a World Cup and a European Championships. The attacker has been to the very top of the European game and established himself as a key player at two of the continent’s best clubs. At Barcelona, he was a vital part of the team built by Pep Guardiola and it was the legendary Spanish manager that brought him into senior football.
His time at the Nou Camp was filled with trophies and he showed his attacking quality by contributing goals and assists to a star-studded Barcelona team. However, there were always doubts regarding his ability, as he had only played for dominant Barcelona and Spain teams. His critics argued that it was an easy environment to star in and that Pedro had yet to prove he was a top European player in his own right.
Although he had been excellent for Barcelona since breaking through from the academy, there was no longer a guaranteed place for him in 2015. Los Cules had a world-class front three of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar. Pedro’s opportunities were limited and at the age of 28, it was important that he was playing regularly. Chelsea, who were champions of England at the time, came in for him and signed the attacker for £21 million. BBC Sport reported the following quotes when the deal was announced:
“I am very happy to be here. I am very excited to start my adventure at Chelsea and I am here to keep winning titles,”
He saw it as a chance to keep winning titles, but there will have been a private motivation to prove his ability outside of the Barcelona bubble. It wasn’t an easy first campaign as Chelsea were in a state of civil war as the players took on Jose Mourinho. Despite winning the Premier League in the previous season, the Blues were a shadow of their former selves and finished in a lowly 10th position. Pedro arrived at a poor time, but seven goals and two assists with a goal involvement every 227.1 offered a little encouragement.
This wasn’t an elite level of attacking contribution, but given the circumstances, it showed that Pedro could be a success in England. After Antonio Conte arrived in the summer of 2016, the Spaniard was forgotten and few expected him to play a prominent role under the Italian, but he has become an important player during the last 12 months.
Since the appointment of Conte, Pedro has featured in 43 of the 47 Premier League matches, starting the majority of them. He has contributed 11 goals and 11 assists, with a goal involvement every 116 minutes. This is excellent and underlines the quality that Pedro does possess in the final third. He isn’t the star of the current Chelsea team, but he is a reliable supporting actor.
The move to Stamford Bridge was a huge risk for Pedro as he was leaving Barcelona for the first time in his career and there were no guarantees that he would find success. Although the struggles that Chelsea were going through at the time weren’t helpful to him making the transition, the fact that he made it through those underlines his ability and character.
His publicly-stated goal was to win more trophies and he has added the Premier League to his vast array of honours. Pedro played a huge role in that success and operated in a similar spot to the one he had at Barcelona. He operates out of the spotlight and quietly goes about providing goals and assists on a consistent basis. At Barcelona, Lionel Messi was the star and at Chelsea, Eden Hazard is the centre of attention.
That won’t bother Pedro. Now at 30-years-old, he is approaching an interesting time in his career. His performance against Watford showed that he can still make a difference for Chelsea and consolidated his position as a first-team regular. The Spaniard has achieved nearly everything there is to do in European football, but he remains hungry and that is what makes him a great player. His spell at Barcelona brought him to the world’s attention, but it will be his time with Chelsea that brings him respect.