Eden Hazard: Antonio Conte's tactical preparation better than Jose Mourinho
Eden Hazard has revealed that Chelsea do more tactical work with Antonio Conte than during Jose Mourinho's time at the club, and says he has learned the value of moving without the ball this season.
Conte has transformed Chelsea's fortunes since making the bold decision to switch to a 3-4-3 formation in September, overseeing a record-equalling 13-match winning streak in the Premier League that stretched until the beginning of January and saw his team go clear at the top of the table.
Hazard says a key element in Conte's success has been how well he has drilled his players within the new system, and admits that even Mourinho -- who has gained a reputation for meticulously preparing his teams over the past 15 years -- does not pay as much attention to detail.
Asked by Arsenal legend Thierry Henry to identify the main difference between working for Conte and Mourinho, Hazard told Sky Sports: "Tactical training. We do more with Conte. We know exactly what to do on the pitch, where I have to go, the defenders [know] where they have to go.
"With Mourinho it was just he put the system [in place], but we didn't work a lot [on it]. We know what to do because we play football, but maybe the automatism was a little bit different."
Hazard enjoys greater freedom as a forward in Conte's 3-4-3 than as a winger in the 4-2-3-1 that Mourinho employed at Chelsea, and says his defensive duties do not involve tracking opposition full-backs so much.
"With Mourinho in the first season, when we won the title, [Nemanja] Matic was behind me," he added. "Sometimes I stayed in front and Matic did the job. With Conte it's different -- I close more inside because [Marcus] Alonso is there. I just need to be ready to counterattack when we get the ball."
The 25-year-old also says his new role has helped mature his understanding of the game.
"We know that to create movement I have to not even get the ball, but to create movement and space for others," he explained. "I think now I understand that football is not only with the ball at my feet. It's good to get the ball at my feet but sometimes I need to go deep, to go at the goal."
Chelsea enjoy a nine-point lead over second-placed Tottenham as they prepare to take on Arsenal at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
It is a match that some are saying could end the Premier League title race if Chelsea win, and Conte's former Juventus teammate Fabrizio Ravanelli has no doubt that the Blues will finish the season as champions.
"They will definitely win the Premier League," Ravanelli told Sky Sports. "I am sure because Chelsea has a fantastic team and is a fantastic club. But mainly I am sure because of Antonio. All of his teams have the same mentality.
"I went to Cobham recently and saw the organisation at the training ground. It's the Antonio mentality. He watches hours of video, loves studying tactics and has this amazing ability to get his ideas onto the pitch. It is not easy to do that but he gets the best from every player."
Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.