Pedro can thrive at Chelsea under Maurizio Sarri, but it's make or break time for the winger
If there is one player that has personified Chelsea's erratic form over the past three seasons it has to be Pedro Rodriguez.
The Spain international has enjoyed a topsy-turvy time since joining Chelsea from Barcelona for £22 million in the summer of 2015. A goal scoring debut at West Bromwich Albion suggested that the Blues had pulled off something of a coup in acquiring his signature but his inability to establish any rhythm in a side struggling to prosper during the last days of Jose Mourinho's second spell in charge saw that early promise fade.
During the following season, the player Chelsea thought they had bought finally emerged. 13 goals and 12 assists helped propel his team towards the Premier League crown and the FA Cup final with his stunning left-foot strike away at Everton all but sealing the title. But in keeping with the perplexing feast or famine nature of Chelsea's recent fortunes, last season saw a return to the doldrums for Pedro as he struggled for form, eventually losing his place deservedly to the consistent Willian.
The good news is that, if the trend continues, both Pedro and Chelsea are due a successful campaign after a disappointing 2017-18. And the early omens are good. The 31-year-old has already netted twice in preseason, both predatory strikes from close range after some good movement into the box.
There are also other reasons for him to be cheerful. For starters, it looks almost certain that he will be afforded the chance to build on his preseason momentum when the competitive action gets underway.
Eden Hazard's run to the World Cup semifinals with Belgium means that he is yet to report to first-team training, while Willian's failure to renew his passport has delayed his return to Cobham. With both players likely to be lacking match fitness in time for the season opener away at Huddersfield on Aug. 11, not to mention this Sunday's Community Shield clash with Manchester City, Pedro should be a shoo-in. The likes of Callum Hudson-Odoi, Victor Moses, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ross Barkley will also be competing for a place among the wide forwards, but Pedro's experience will surely give him the edge when it comes to selection.
Although not one to speak out of turn, he will surely also have been secretly pleased with the appointment of Maurizio Sarri as Antonio Conte's replacement.
The former Napoli boss is a proponent of a dynamic and pacey front line that plays high up the pitch and presses their opponents. In short, exactly the type of philosophy in which Pedro thrives. Rapid, industrious, with an eye for an incisive attacking run and a fondness for a tackle, Sarri and Pedro seem to be a perfect match. Chelsea supporters have always valued the Spaniard's diligence, if not always his end product, and it seems highly possible that his new manager will become a fan as well.
Another positive to flag for the former Barcelona man is how Dries Mertens flourished under the same tutelage at Napoli. Previously a wide forward that often flattered to deceive, Mertens was deployed more centrally by Sarri and transformed into a potent attacking weapon who scored 56 goals and contributed 27 assists over the last two seasons.
It remains to be seen whether the new manager has similar plans for Pedro, though there is a successful precedent to draw upon should he feel the need to shake up his front three.
Either way, at least attacking will be Pedro's primary focus. Conte had on occasion, largely in the FA Cup or when chasing the game, used him as wing-back. While he executed his new responsibilities surprisingly well on the whole, Pedro will surely be pleased not to repeat those duties as long as Sarri continues with his favoured 4-3-3.
As has been well documented, Chelsea have not been very active in the transfer window thus far but it could also be stated that the presence of some players could resemble new signings.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek's return from Crystal Palace and England duty will add quality competition to the squad, while Ross Barkley's displays over the past couple of weeks suggest he is about to kickstart a spluttering beginning to his Chelsea career. Potentially the same could be said of Pedro, despite him having been an ever-present in the dressing room for the last three years.
Having been largely anonymous last season, the new regime represents an opportunity for him to restate his qualities. He is, after all, a multiple La Liga and Champions League winner, a World Cup winner, a European Championship winner and, of course, a Premier League winner.
If Pedro can once again summon the spirit that has seen him claim so much silverware thus far in his career then Sarri and Chelsea will have a real asset on their hands.