Can Eden Hazard Take This Premier League Season by Storm?7 min read
For a number of years, Eden Hazard has been on the cusp of being the greatest player in the Premier League, but for some reason or another, he has fallen short to the likes of Sergio Agüero, Kevin De Bruyne and Mohamed Salah. However, at the beginning of this campaign, under new manager Maurizio Sarri, the Belgian looks refreshed and hungrier than ever to take that accolade for himself.
After joining the 2012 Champions League winners, Hazard has consistently been one of the Blues’ best performers. From scoring in crucial games to being selfless in situations to better the team, Hazard has been a delight to watch since gracing England’s top-tier division.
Under José Mourinho, Hazard suffered a tumultuous time with the Portuguese boss, finding himself in and out of the team, as well as not performing to the heights that was expected of him. In Mourinho’s final season, in which the Portuguese boss lasted until December, Hazard was a peripheral figure, making it incredibly obvious to fans, and the coach, that he had lost faith in the former Real Madrid manager and would not sacrifice himself like he had done previously.
The Belgian international was prolific under Antonio Conte, scoring at ease in his first season when Chelsea were crowned Premier League champions for the fifth time in their club’s history. But in Conte’s very public downfall in his second campaign in charge, Hazard also suffered on the pitch – although it is fair to say that he was still one of Chelsea’s better performers and still managed to record 30 goals and assists in 52 appearances.
Many would have thought that Hazard would have gone into the 2018 World Cup lacking confidence and perhaps shy away, but that could not have been further from the truth. In fact, Hazard was Belgium’s lynchpin and attacking nucleus throughout. While they are a nation full of stars scattered all over the pitch, Hazard stood up when it mattered and dragged Belgium to a World Cup semi final against France, even when some performances from Roberto Martínez’s team warranted otherwise.
Ending the tournament with three goals scored and assisting twice, Hazard was, arguably, the best player in Russia. With his determination and persistence when running at defenders, Hazard showed that he can deliver when it matters on the biggest stage of all. Although Belgium did not make the final, they were knocked out to the eventual winners, which is some consolation in itself.
A large proportion of players who made it past the quarter finals have returned to their clubs in a sluggish mood. Not Hazard. Instead, even without a pre-season, the Belgian has excelled in Sarri’s new look Chelsea side and showed why he is gunning for the recognition he feels he deserves.
In his six appearances – two of those coming from the bench – Hazard has five goals to his name and two assists. Also, as impressive, Hazard tops the table out of all the players in the league in dribbles per-match.
The Belgian has recorded, on average, 3.6 per game, which is ahead of notorious dribbler Adama Traoré of Wolves. Hazard’s intent and persistence with the ball at his feet shows how hungry he is to either create chances for others or to find a way past the goalkeeper himself.
The former Lille youth player is also near the top of the table in terms of fouls committed on him. With an average of three per-game, only James Maddison and Rajiv van La Parra find themselves being on the end of illegal challenges so far this season. Hazard’s low centre of gravity and quick wittedness allows him to manoeuvre out of situations incredibly quickly, hence why his markers fail to keep up with him and have to result in fouling him.
Hazard’s greatest return in the Premier League came in the 2016/17 season, where he helped led his club to triumph. A commendable 16 goals were scored from the wing in that campaign, a tally he will be hoping that he better this time out. Sarri has used him as an out-and-out left winger so far, but Hazard’s actual movement has been cutting inside and occupying the space in behind the midfield and in front of the defence. In that unofficial number 10 role, Hazard can run riot and cause untold havoc to defences up and down the country.
There will be ups and downs this season for the Belgian, but with the way he is dominating matches on his own, worldwide accolades are surely on the cards. Hazard has been on the verge of being named the best player in the Premier League for a number of years now, but this really could be the season where he elevates his already high profile and takes the crown for himself.
Hazard is the current favourite to win this season’s PFA Player Of The Year award – which seems like a reasonable price when you consider that last year’s winner Mohamed Salah – – has had a slow start to the season and the 2017/18 runner up, Kevin De Bruyne, suffered a long-term injury at the beginning of the campaign and is now out to .