How Eden Hazard Has Set Himself Apart From The Rest In The Premier League This Season

How Eden Hazard Has Set Himself Apart From The Rest In The Premier League This Season
May 17, 2017

Chelsea Featured

It’s very rare that a player, who is kicked so much, can be untouchable. It’s almost impossible that on occasion after occasion, you can lose sight of the person who you were touch-tight to just seconds earlier. It’s a reality, though.

Eden Hazard’s proficiency with a ball at his feet is not only breathtaking but inspiring. It’s a sight that at first, you cannot begin to comprehend it being possible. Despite being two inches short of six foot, the Belgian is a giant when anyone attempts to contest with him. Francis Coquelin finding out the hard way.

The genius of the La Louvière-born man perhaps best witnessed through the fear injected into Premier League managers as they prepare to face Chelsea. Some, forgetting the risks his team-mates possess due to the agitation they have faced just imagining the havoc Chelsea’s number 10 will create. José Mourinho, who once had Hazard within his possession, ditched his 4-2-3-1 system on two occasions to cope with the threat he posed. Hazard’s trickery left United players chasing shadows as Mourinho faced his former side in the FA Cup quarter-finals at Stamford Bridge.

Not being able to get close to Hazard left United resorting to kicking lumps out of him, resulting in the dismissal of Ander Herrera. Of course, Mourinho’s plan worked when the pair met again in the Premier League at Old Trafford, however, the Manchester United boss’ decision to risk going with the same tactic conveyed that the fear for what Hazard may do was still ever-present.

Many will argue that having N’Golo Kanté as a team-mate allows the freedom to express yourself, giving Eden Hazard an advantage over those who his stats are compared to. I agree. It’s like taking your dog to the park, with the leash on, the dog can only stay close to its owner, perhaps best put with Hazard having to track back and help his full-back. Without the leash, the dog can go wherever, p*issing on whatever it likes. Kanté’s presence in the Chelsea side means responsibilities usually enforced on players are relieved, as the Frenchman covers every blade of grass possible. This means Hazard’s leash is non-existent, leaving him to p*ss on anyone he wants.

The 26-year-old has had his finest goal-scoring season since joining the Blues, surpassing his tally of 14 under José Mourinho by one. Seven of Hazard’s 15 goals this season have come against the top seven sides in the Premier League, showcasing the Belgian’s ability to proclaim himself as one of the best on the big stage. His big-match input has helped steer Chelsea in the direction of the Premier League trophy. Hazard’s ability has always been compared with the greatest – Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, Gareth Bale and others alike. The 26-year-old has been hailed as a future Ballon d’Or winner, but the numbers, nor trophies, have ever been close enough to Ronaldo’s or Messi’s.

However, this season, Hazard replicated the duo by producing magic out of nothing, something he has been previously criticised for not doing. Gary Neville was criticised for downplaying Hazard as a world class talent on Monday night, insisting the numbers Hazard is producing are good, but need improving. Neville was spot on. Speaking on Sky, the former Manchester United captain said:

““I think he’s a wonderful player. 15 goals and five assists is a good season but for me, I think he should be hitting 20, 25, I think he should be hitting double-figures assists.”

“I think when I’ve watched him now a lot, particularly in the last few weeks away from home, he’s got to do more, he’s got to get in where it hurts more.”

“I don’t mean challenging, I’m talking about taking the ball higher up the pitch, not dropping deeper, not taking the easier options. He’s a fantastic, fantastic player but I want more, we need more. You think of Bale’s last season in the Premier League where he scored more than 20 goals. Hazard’s got to do that and he can do that.”

Neville’s analysis hit the nail on the head. Some Chelsea fans took it as though Neville was slating Hazard, saying he’s not doing enough, but Neville’s assessment was based on the ability Hazard has, the ability which matches the best in the world, whereas his numbers don’t.

15 goals are not a representation of Hazard’s ability, but perhaps his unselfishness. Compared to Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, Hazard has created the most chances for his team-mates, providing 84, compared to Ronaldo’s 28 and Messi’s 75. Hazard’s played more, you may say. Well, Hazard’s average chances created per game (2.40) is again, higher than both Ronaldo’s (1.04) and Messi’s (2.27). Take-ons? Hazard’s completed it. The Belgian has completed 141 take-ons, 119 more than Cristiano Ronaldo (22) and 26 more than Lionel Messi (115).

It’s the goals that people look for, though. The numbers recorded by Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi set the benchmark, and even though Lionel Messi is not deemed as selfish, he’s had 97 more shots than Hazard, scoring 35 goals in La Liga. Cristiano Ronaldo has had 156 shots, scoring 22 goals. And then comes Hazard, who’s had 75 shots, scoring 15 goals. The stats above prove Hazard’s unselfishness is holding him back from becoming one of the greatest players around. To be in contention for football’s most prestigious individual award, the Ballon d’Or, Hazard has to kick-on and produce numbers that match the greatest, the talent is undoubtedly there, but it’s whether Chelsea talisman can live up to it.

The way Hazard has performed in a Chelsea shirt this year, whatever ground he attended, has brought Chelsea’s swagger back. Fans watch football for players like Hazard, those who get you on the edge of your seat. Not only has Hazard had occasional moments this season, every game watching him play is 90 minutes well spent. Alongside Antonio Conte, providing the Belgian stays at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea can be a force to be reckoned with. If Chelsea manage to tie Hazard down at the club, it could be the pathway to Chelsea becoming a super club in Europe.

Data Sourced From Squawka.



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