Pedro is back at his best and helping Chelsea like he did Barcelona

Pedro is back at his best and helping Chelsea like he did Barcelona

Published Dec. 26, 2016 2:20 p.m. ET

Pedro played for seven seasons at Barcelona, winning five La Liga titles, three Champions League trophies, and a boatload of other silverware in his years at the Nou Camp. He was never the Blaugrana's star player in that time, but he became indispensable for his versatility, work rate, and dependability. Now, under Antonio Conte, he's showing just why he was so important through the years for Barça, and he's become one of Chelsea's most important players.

In the 3-0 win against Bournemouth, setting a club record 12th consecutive win for Chelsea, Pedro showcased all his best qualities. It wasn't just the nonstop running that's become his trademark, but brilliant movement and a fantastic finish to open the scoring, and the defensive effort, direct running and final strike (albeit a scruffy, deflected one) to assure the three points.

For years, the little Spanish winger operated on either side of Barça's attacking trident, his effort on both sides of the ball, intelligent decision-making, and propensity for important goals making him invaluable for the Blaugrana. Two-footed, pacy, and willing to do the extra running that inevitably opened up space for his more creative teammates, Pedro thrived even when it seemed there were players with more natural ability who could take his place.

Eventually, Neymar arrived, and he did take Pedro's place. The Brazilian's arrival saw his playing time shrink dramatically, and Pedro left Barcelona seeking a more important role. His first year at Chelsea was one to forget under Mourinho, but now, with Antonio Conte as his coach, Pedro's really found his niche and shown just how vital he can be.

Pedro has thrived in Conte's hybrid 3-4-3 formation, typically playing on the right side of Chelsea's front three. With even more support behind him, Pedro's truly been able to show off his intelligent movement, incessant running, and ability in front of goal, and it's paying dividends for the Blues. Already this year he has five goals and five assists, and he doesn't look like slowing down any time soon.

Pedro's most important contribution hasn't been directly on the scoresheet though; he's having the same positive effect on Eden Hazard and Diego Costa as he did on Leo Messi and Barcelona's attackers when he was at the Nou Camp. His unselfishness on the ball and ability to play a final pass has directly led to goals for his strike partners, and his tireless work ethic has created more space for them to operate in, with the movement patterns of the three creating havoc in opposition defenses.

Pedro's two goals against Bournemouth were a perfect illustration of what he brings to Chelsea. His first saw him exploit a tiny pocket of space around the edge of the area to link with Cesc Fabregas, turning on a dime and digging the ball from under his feet to delicately chip over the helpless goalkeeper's head. The second was the type of effort that makes Antonio Conte absolutely giddy, as Pedro robbed a Bournemouth defender in his own half, sprinted, twisted and turned his way past a number of defenders, and tucked it away himself to confirm the win.

Chelsea are top of the Premier League, and they've won 12 matches in a row. They're just two away from matching Arsenal's all-time consecutive win record, and Pedro's been a vital piece of that nearly finished puzzle this year. He may never be Chelsea's star man, but he's the man who makes the stars better. Pedro's the perfect role player.


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