Chelsea rejected chance to sign Arsenal transfer target in surprise swap deal offer

Chelsea reportedly turned down the transfer of Real Madrid attacking midfielder and rumoured Arsenal target James Rodriguez during the summer.

The Blues ended up raiding the Spanish giants to sign Alvaro Morata, but did not want Rodriguez in a proposed double swap deal that would’ve seen Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois move to the Bernabeu, according to the Daily Mail.

It makes sense that Chelsea did not want to lose those two big names, especially as Rodriguez has been far from at his best recently.

The Colombia international never really lived up to expectations at Madrid, and lost his place in the side under Zinedine Zidane last season.

Rodriguez hasn’t really done the business on loan at Bayern Munich either this season, leading to Gol Digital claiming Arsenal could take him off their hands.

The South American has previously looked a world class talent and would be exciting to see in England, though it seems increasingly unlikely that top clubs will gamble on him after his recent slump.

Chelsea clearly didn’t rate him enough, though their gamble on Morata did end up paying off, even though he was also not a regular at Real last season.

Conte tweak has freed up Hazard, says Cunningham

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has got the best out of Eden Hazard this season through a minor tactical tweak, according to eir Sport pundit Kenny Cunningham.

The former Ireland international says Conte has freed Hazard from his defensive covering duties this campaign, and the Belgium international has responded with eight goals and three assists in his last 11 appearances across all competitions.

Conte asked Hazard to cover the left flank when Chelsea were without the ball last season, although the 26-year-old still scored 16 goals and added five assists in 36 Premier League games for the Blues during their title-winning campaign.

But Cunningham notes that Conte seems to have given Hazard a free role this season, with Cesc Fabregas instead ask to provider cover to Marcos Alonso down the left flank.

“I am a big fan of Antonio Conte tactically, and of how he sets up his team,” Cunningham said during eir Sport’s Champions League coverage of Chelsea’s Group C game against Atletico Madrid.

“He won a lot of plaudits last season for tinkering with his formation, and finding that settled system that served him so well.

“He has done the same this season, and I think Hazard is at the heart of it, as he understands what a key player he is.

“Last season they shaped, when in possession of the ball, with Pedro and Hazard playing in the pockets behind Diego Costa, with two in midfield behind them.

“Out of possession, Hazard dropped back on the left wing, with Pedro on the right, and they had real defensive responsibilities.

“This season, Hazard is playing in the orthodox No 10 position, in behind Alvaro Morata, and they have an extra midfielder in Cesc Fabregas.

“This has given Chelsea more a creative edge, but if there is a weakness, it is down the sides.

“There is space there now, but Hazard is not expected to get across there and put in a defensive shift.

“Fabregas is asked to move across there to cover, while the rest of the midfield shift across.

“Hazard and Morata are jogging, they are walking back. They are expected to conserve their energy, let their team-mates win back possession of the ball, because if they then are fed higher up the pitch, they can really hurt teams.”

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