Eden Hazard 22 Midfielder Chelsea Belgium
2013 has been...
Eden Hazard is better footballer than he was in 2011 when he helped lead Lille to the Ligue 1 title. His decision making and awareness is much stronger. His close control is tighter and he has managed to improve his already-fine finishing. Playing in the Barclays Premier League and training with the quality of the Chelsea squad has helped to make him more of an all-round attacking midfielder.
Yet he’s not having an impact and influence on games as much as he did with Ligue 1. That’s potentially a good thing. He’s not getting old before his time, shouldering the pressure of one team, week-on-week, season-on-season but on the flip side, we worry he allows himself to play second or third fiddle to his more decorated team-mates on some occasions.
Hazard scored and assisted goals in France and has continued to be a threat for Chelsea. Whether he needs to slip a teammate in, make a dash to the byline and cut back for the onrushing striker or simply drop a shoulder, throw his marker into a spin and unless a rasping shot; Hazard has everything in his locker. He can do it all in the final third and as such, has been quickly identified by Jose Mourinho as a key man in his new Chelsea side.
Hazard plays in the biggest games for his club and is one of those players protected in the lesser matches; ignoring the recent incident with the 21 year-old and his disappearing passport. Hazard returned to Lille on a 24-hour trip as guest of honor for their league match against AS Monaco. He was left out of a Champions League win by Mourinho for missing training the next morning but returned in time to score a 96th penalty just last week that retained Mourinho’s record of having never lost a league match at Stamford Bridge.
He needs to get quickly back to allowing his football to do all of his talking. As exceptional as he has been on the pitch, his career has been dotted with some off-the-field incidents that could be done without. There was “hamburgergate” when on international duty and the long protracted transfer saga that saw him batting his eyelashes at all in sundry before the latest debacle around his passport.
At Chelsea, he has finally found a regular position on the left hand side of the forward four and that has helped him refine his game. In France, Hazard played across the front line, using his free role to frustrate defenders and cause errors as they figured out whose responsibility he was. In London, there is still a freedom to Hazard’s play. He work in cohorts with the other two pacey, attacking midfielders, usually Oscar and one other, selected to support the striker with his mix of pace, slick passing and accurate shooting. In full fight, Hazard is a terrifying sight for any full-back as he races towards with them with a bag of tricks in his armory.
Last season, Hazard scored nine league goals and laid on another 11. When you match his attacking flair with a natural work rate picked up coming through at a club not known as a giant of French football; it’s easy to understand why he is so important to Mourinho’s well-drilled, counter-attacking plans. Hazard is a player well-suited to enjoying the Portugese manager’s style of football and the results that come with it. Jose is a bastard for winning trophies and Eden can expect that he’ll need to do a spot of trophy cabinet shopping in the coming years.
Between now and June, Eden Hazard just has the Premier League, Champions League, Capital One Cup and FA Cup to play in. Chelsea’s squad and their fans will want the side to get as close to winning as many of those competitions as possible. Hazard will have a part to play in many of those games.
He could very well find himself in a season-defining moment; whether to shoot or pass, whether to elect for power or placement; whether to go down or try to soldier on. His performances in 2010/11 as he played in Rudi Garcia’s glorious Lille side proved that he has the mentality to make those split-second decisions and get them right more often than not.
Once all of that is out of the way, he’ll have the chance to live up to his billing as the best ever footballer to hail from Belgium. Thanks to the glorious crop of players currently at the disposal of Red Devils coach Marc Wilmots and the impressive string of performances they put together during the qualifying campaign, Belgium will go to Brazil among the favorites for the World Cup. It’s unlikely that an European side will be able to deal with the climate and conditions well enough to walk away as Champions but Hazard and his teammates will be angling to outperform the Belgian side of the 80s.
It’ll also be a chance for Hazard to reaffirm his commitment to the national team. Having been relocated to France as a youngster to aid his development and having failed to sparkle in a Belgium shirt so far, there have been more than a few attacks on Eden’s attitude when called up. The World Cup is a chance for him to really produce and prove his words are more than just lip service.
Eden has handled the move to a club with grand expectations like a consummate pro. He’s settled in, kept adding to his game and is now ready to be an important string in the bow of the Blues. Worryingly for those clubs that missed on his signature, there is still more to come from Hazard.
“With so much fanfare surrounding his move to Chelsea, it took a little while for Eden to make his mark at the club. Though he was never really bad in 2012/13, perhaps with the fee being paid, fans may have expected more of an immediate impact. However, in the latter part of 2013, Hazard has arguably been one of Chelsea's best since Mourinho came back. He should flourish from here.” – Chris Mayer, The Belgian Waffle
"Eden Hazard has created more chances from open play in the Premier League this season (22) than any other player." - Opta
B Ready to start making an impact in the world’s biggest competitions