Premier League

Under-The-Radar Pedro Pivotal For Chelsea

 • by Tom Bodell
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“This season he is not lucky,” Chelsea boss Antonio Conte said of Pedro last week. “He started with a bad injury in the Arsenal game – a friendly game – where he broke a bone in his face.

“Then he received a knock on his ankle and then his leg. I hope for him and for our team to be more lucky in the future.”

And with good reason. The 30-year-old Spaniard has quietly gone about becoming one of the Blues’ most important – yet unheralded – figures. The one-time Manchester United transfer target was at it again on Saturday, scoring with a well-taken finish in the 4-0 demolition of Stoke City.

After a stop-start pre-season the former Barcelona forward is coming into his own once more. He was alert to the opportunity when Stoke midfielder Darren Fletcher’s misjudged chest back towards his own goal put him through. Taking a touch to steady himself, he lashed low past Jack Butland into the bottom corner.

It was the kind of finish which is taken for granted now. The finish of a player in fine form and with supreme confidence. A world away from his first season in the Premier League following a £19million move from Barça two summers ago.

Chelsea forward Pedro's two full seasons at the club compared statistically

Often the forgotten man at the Camp Nou, Pedro found himself forced out by the MSN. There is no shame in that and a move to Chelsea was befitting of someone who had been a big part of the most successful team in the club’s history.

But Pedro, like his new team, struggled during the 2015/16 campaign. José Mourinho was sacked in December with the champions languishing above the relegation zone. Even the appointment of cuddly Guus Hiddink as caretaker failed to enliven the Canary Islander.

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But when Conte arrived last summer that all changed.

Pedro contributed nine goals and nine assists in the Premier League. A significant improvement on the seven and two of his maiden season at Stamford Bridge.

But what underlines his importance best is this. Since 2016/17, only Diego Costa (29) has been involved in more goals in all competitions for Chelsea than Pedro (15 goals 12 assists).

Indeed, five of his nine goals last term broke the deadlock in games as Chelsea won the title.

He grabbed the opener in a 4-0 win against Manchester United. The first in a 2-1 victory over title rivals Tottenham Hotspur.

He opened the scoring in a 3-0 success against Bournemouth on Boxing Day, and struck first away at Burnley in a 1-1 draw.

It’s one of the reasons Conte usually preferred the Spain international alongside Eden Hazard, instead of Willian, in his 3-4-2-1 system last season.

The Belgian came off the bench on Saturday to continue his recovery from an ankle fracture suffered in pre-season.

When he is fully fit the Real Madrid transfer target will dominate the headlines for the Blues. But, quietly pulling the strings and going about his business in the background, every bit as important, will be Pedro.

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