As Eden Hazard continues to find it difficult to earn consistent minutes at Real Madrid, fans are wondering about alternative ways to get the Belgian involved. And even Carlo Ancelotti, despite this false narrative existing that he is ostracizing the No. 7, has been contemplating the same.
Earlier this season, we saw Ancelotti use Hazard in a free role, listed as a right winger. But Ancelotti had to abandon that plan despite Hazard’s solid performances, since the offensive production did not outweigh the huge negative consequences to Real’s already questionable defensive structure.
And now in the most recent match, Hazard came off the bench for nearly 10 minutes as Karim Benzema’s direct substitute. Yes, Hazard was the furthest man up top, dropping deep and playing as a false nine, which is not an entirely unfamiliar or illogical role for him.
In fact, if Hazard can’t play on the left wing anymore and if Los Blancos do not have room for an attacking midfielder in their classic 4-3-3, then Hazard as a false nine seems like a worthy experiment. After all, Benzema does a lot of things that a 10 or false nine would do, and the structure would not have to change with Hazard up top. He could help Vinicius Junior and either Gareth Bale or Marco Asensio get even more goal-scoring opportunities.
Real Madrid need goals
It’s not a bad idea on the surface. But when you really pull back the details on how Real Madrid play, you start to see why it’s not going to work. The biggest reasons have to do with Benzema, because if you say a false nine will work, then you are severely underselling Benzema.
See, what makes Benzema so damn good isn’t just that he’s an amazing all-around striker who can defend, drop deep, create, assist, and dribble past anyone. You can find well-rounded strikers who do the little things but never start for a damn decade at the biggest club in the world – let alone become a serious Ballon d’Or candidate.
Benzema, even considering Vini’s breakout season, is still easily Real’s main scoring threat. Real Madrid ask their striker to do a lot in addition to scoring, but they still expect a lot of goals from that striker. Those are goals Hazard has not shown he can provide.
Furthermore, the way Benzema scores is notable. A lot of his goals come as a result from him using his size in the air and instincts to latch onto crosses. There are so many games where he has rescued Real Madrid by scoring from a cross out of nowhere. Rodrygo Goes, Dani Carvajal, and Lucas Vazquez will probably be the most frequent starts on the right-hand side, and, therefore, there will be significant crossing.
Luka Jovic is the better option if Karim Benzema needs rest
Hazard can provide the dribbling and creation. But he cannot provide the same scoring threat, nor is he anywhere near Benzema defensively or in the box. The false nine role accounts for the limitations in the box, but then the problem becomes, where do Real get their goals?
If Benzema needs rest, Luka Jovic is still a better option. Because he can be that in-the-box threat. He has also shown an ability to create, such as with this backheel assist for Casemiro in his first season at the Santiago Bernabeu. Jovic can provide the goals.
Plus, if Hazard starts, Real would need a left-footed right winger to match the false nine and keep the scoring threat high. Bale and Asensio the only options there, but they are not players Real can rely on. Bale has his own injury issues, while Asensio has been a disaster at that position over the past couple of seasons.
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Playing Eden Hazard as a false nine is not a bad idea by any means. However, when you look at the team’s profile and the best way to play if Benzema cannot go, Jovic and maybe even Rodrygo Goes would be better options.