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Player Focus: Eden Hazard


Player Focus: Eden Hazard


Eden Hazard is standing at the penalty spot, his hands on his hips. It's 0-0 in the 35th minute. The Chelsea No.17 had just tried to give the Nordsjælland goalkeeper Jesper Hansen the 'Baggio' eyes, looking intently at one corner before aiming a shot at the other. 


He had also maybe heard from Petr Cech that right-footed penalty takers tend to go to the goalkeeper's right, so why not look that way and go the other instead. Except Hansen was wise to it, diving to his left and pushing the penalty away. As he did so, Hazard clenched his fists and looked to the night's sky in anguish. 


Minutes earlier Nicolai Stokholm had missed a penalty at the other end. Perhaps it'd had an effect. For missing had just got very real and maybe it was catching. 


Hazard has certainly come down with something over the last couple of months. And if it weren't for all the other goings-on at Chelsea, from the Clattenburg case to Roberto Di Matteo's dismissal and the unpopular decision to replace him with Rafa Benitez amid the expectation that he might be the only man capable of reawakening the world class striker lying dormant within Fernando Torres, then maybe, just maybe Hazard's form would have come under the microscope more.


Because after setting the Premier League alight more or less immediately following his £35m move from Lille, it has faltered. In the beginning, he looked like picking up where he'd left off in France, where he had scored 20 goals and laid on 16 assists in the league alone last season. It was a remarkable individual achievement.  Only one other player in Europes top five leagues managed to combine tallies of 15 or more for both goals and assists in the 2011/12 campaign, and that was Lionel Messi. 


On Hazard's Premier League debut against Wigan, he set up Branislav Ivanovic and won a penalty for Frank Lampard. At home to Reading, he put in another Man of the Match performance, drawing a penalty again and laying on another couple of goals in arguably his best showing in a Chelsea shirt thus far. Then against Newcastle came his first goal - a penalty that he cooly converted - but what really sticks in the mind was that wonderful back-heel to tee up Torres.


Up until that point, Hazard had been involved in 87.5% of Chelsea's goals in the Premier League, assisting 4, scoring one and winning two converted penalties out of eight. One Sunday paper asked: "Could Hazard eclipse Thierry Henry and Eric Cantona as the Premier League's best foreign import?" Finally, it seemed, Chelsea had found a playmaker to rival Gianfranco Zola. "Gianfranco was a wonderful talent," Di Matteo claimed, "an artist I would say. Eden might become an artist as well."


Player Focus: Eden Hazard


He was running at people with a sense of abandon and supreme confidence, so often getting the better of his man. In August, Hazard was making 3 dribbles per game in the Premier League with a 60% success rate. Since September, however, he has generally found things that little bit more difficult. For instance, his dribbles per game have fallen to 1.25 per match at a success rate of just 38%. 


To some extent, that's natural. Opponents have come to understand that Hazard represents one of Chelsea's strengths and that he needs closer attention. They've also discovered that he might be one of their weaknesses too because he has, on occasion, offered so little protection and defensive cover to his left-back. 


Manchester United found this out in late October, scoring twice down Hazard's side and focusing 46% of their attacks down the right flank. Shakhtar followed suit at Stamford Bridge by concentrating 45% of their attacks in that area and while they lost 3-2 - in part because of an absence of luck and the mistakes of their goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov - their game plan was spot on.


It would be unfair to make Hazard the scapegoat for Chelsea's problems. Some have asked: what if he had opened the scoring away to Juventus after Oscar, following a mazy run, played him through on goal in the ninth minute? 


People have fixated on that chance, even though Hazard later created one just as good for Juan Mata only for his attempt to be saved. Would things really have been different? In hindsight the writing was already on the wall for Di Matteo. 


Still, with the exception of his role in the 4-1 win against Norwich on October 6, his part in the 4-2 victory over Tottenham and his Capital One Cup cameo against United, his performances have, in general, underwhelmed. 


From the defeat to Juventus two weeks ago up until Wednesday night's visit of Nordsjælland, his WhoScored average rating over his past four games was 6.71. That of course coincided with a change of manager and an alteration in the team's style to a more solid and defensively organised outfit. But Benitez quite rightly observed earlier this week that Hazard had been struggling before his arrival too.  


"Hazard can play in three positions and he has great talent," he said. "I know [Lille manager] Rudi Garcia so I have information and I know he is a great player but he has to adapt also to the tempo of the Premier League, it is not the same way to play [as in France]...


"At Lille he knew he was the key player and the way he was playing was with this feeling - 'I am the best player and I will do what I want to do and it will be right'. Here you come to the maximum level in the Premier League and Champions League. You have to be always at your best and sometimes you cannot make the difference. 


"It is something that he will see and learn from and he is doing well, but he can still do better because he is a great player." 


To his credit, Hazard didn't let his penalty miss define his performance against Nordsjælland on Wednesday night. David Luiz helped take his mind off it; making amends by scoring from the spot to give Chelsea a 1-0 lead just three minutes later. It unburdened Hazard and from then onwards he put on his best display for a while. 


Torres was a beneficiary of his work down the left, as Hazard laid on an assist - his first in eight games - for Chelsea's fourth goal. He also deserved another, as he set up Juan Mata for their fifth, who followed up an earlier shot that Hansen had saved. It was a very good individual performance. Then again that should be expected given the calibre of the opposition and the fact Nordsjælland had nothing but pride to play for. 


Benitez will be hoping Hazard can build on that showing away to Sunderland this weekend and recapture the sort of swagger he had at the start of the campaign. Still, the issue of whether all three No.10s can realistically play together as they did under Di Matteo remains under discussion. 


"In a game in which you can be in possession [Chelsea had 59% of the ball against Nordsjælland], you can use them all," Benitez explained. "If it is a game [that] you have to manage because the opposition are physically strong [like in the 3-1 defeat to West Ham] then you may have [to take] another approach, but they can play together because they are very good players."


It's a conundrum for Benitez because each of his three No.10s have different strengths and weaknesses out of possession. Oscar for instance makes 1.8 tackles per game, almost twice as many as Hazard [1] not to mention Mata [0.8], and clears the ball more on average too with 1 per game compared with 0.1 and zip respectively from his fellow playmakers. However he also gets dribbled by opponents twice as much as Mata [1.2 times per game in contrast to 0.6] while Hazard leads them both in interceptions. 


Finding the right balance between his three No. 10s and the rest of the team is Benitez's biggest tactical challenge at Stamford Bridge. But if he can do it then perhaps his assertion that "we can do whatever we want" in the competitions remaining to Chelsea this season isn't that far-fetched after all.

Comments (1)

  • Dear Mr Horncastle Thank you for the very interesting article. I just signed in..twt is just too short.. I've been to every home match at Stamford Bridge this season..I've always liked Eden he is gifted he sees the game but he can seem nonchalant like gifted players are. When Eden arrived you could see he was eager but he was holding back..finding his feet. Seniority plays a strong role in the team..when you are playing with Lampard, when you have to serve Torres..although he could have scored on occasions..I felt he was selfless it was good because in France not so, this due to his responsibilities as you said. The three 10 were an attractive feature of Di Matteo's game the problem being did it serve Torres..I feel at least it was RB is restructuring to favour Torres we may lose that..the Ldc match was not a reference match I think as the opponent was weak. Finally I am not sure about Torres and him finding his confidence again..I think it's a tiring business.


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Alberto Gilardino Kenny Miller Timm Klose Daniel Caligiuri Salif Sané Maicon John Obi Mikel Daniele De Rossi Peter Odemwingie Nicklas Bendtner Yannick Sagbo Julio Cesar Wojciech Scczesny Wahib Khazri Francesco Lodi Rômulo Togni Fabien Camus Clément Chantôme Ishak Belfodil Coritiba Adem Ljajic Eden Ben Basat Marco Sau Ricardo Alvarez Josuha Guilavogui Eddie Johnson Brad Evans Roque Santa Cruz Fabrizio Miccoli Ibai Gomez Szabolcs Huszti Giovani dos Santos Pedro Leon Lars Bender Carlos Martínez Dennis Diekmeier Álvaro Pereira Bastian Oczipka Beñat Joan Verdu Betis Stephane Sessegnon Nnamdi Oduamadi Walter Gargano Andrea Barzagli Heiko Westermann Kyle Beckerman Michel Benny Felihaber Inigo Martínez Stefan Kiessling Papiss Demba Cisse Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa Jack McInerney Marco van Ginkel Magnus Eikrem Nir Biton Hiroshi Kiyotake Antonio Candreva Diego Milito Benjamin Stambouli Iago Aspas Fernandao Ederson Maxi Biancucchi Deivid William Gonzalo Rodríguez André-Pierre Gignac Matt Jarvis Carlos Martinez Ezequiel Lavezzi Diego Sercan Sararer Dani Hernandez Fábio Coentrão Alex McCarthy Josip Ilicic Leon Balogun Paul Baysse Vitória Matthew Lowton Pablo Zabaleta Ashley Williams Paul Scholes Simon Pouplin Daniel Carvajal Chico Stefan Savic Maarten Stekelenburg Ruben Castro Imanol Agirretxe Arouna Kone Antolin Alcaraz Jonny Evans Nacho Damia Jakub Blaszczykowski Giampaolo Pazzini Adam Le Fondre Michu Victor Valdes Andrés Fernandez Nigel Adkins Mattia De Sciglio Nelson Valdez Cañas Víctor Sánchez Deportivo Mallorca German Denis Giacomo Bonaventura Marco Borriello Jean Beausejour Gary O'Neil Jose Antonio Reyes Thomas Mangani Dorlan Pabon Gabby Agbonlahor Vieirinha Cristian Molinaro Diego Lopez Freiburg Eintracht Frankfurt Raphaël Varane Pedro Mba Obiang Brandao Ilkay Gundogan Bayern Leverkusen Malaga Ilkay Gündoğan Pizzi Riki Jan Mucha Mathis Bolly Maynor Figueroa Craig Gardner Marko Basa Mirko Vucinic Steven Taylor Inigo Martinez Leon Osman Man City Bologna Ben Foster John Ruddy Patric Evra Matija Nastasic Javi Garcia Lucas Moura Michel Bastos Roberto Di Matteo John Arne Riise Gareth McAuley Innocent Emeghara Siena Carlos Cuellar Javier Zanetti Michele Canini Zdenek Pospech Sergio Garcia Damien Duff Yoan Gouffran Giuseppe Biava Hilton Nicola Legrottaglie Magno Macedo Novaes Daniel Aranzubia Antonio Conte Andrea Ranocchia per Mertesacker Manucho Leo Nils Petersen Cyril Thereau Adam Szalai Pavel Pogrebnyak Roman Neustadter Daniele Conti Milan Badelj Gerhard Tremmel Daniel Agger Kyle Nauhgton Zoltan Gera Brett Holman Adriano Joe Allen Youssuf Mulumbu Premier League. Luis Suarez Federico Peluso Jamel Saihi Gustavo Cabral Wakaso Daniele Gastaldello Danilo David Pizarro loris Nery Hugo Mallo Gotoku Sakai Andre Wisdom Andre Schürrle Mousa Dembélé Hamburger SV Rafael van der Vaart Rene Adler Sean Morrison Juan Jesus Frederik Sorensen Nicolas Isimat-Mirin Joel Matip Barry Bannan Nicky Shorey Luca Cigarini Andrea Consigli Jordan Ayew Carl Medjani Ricardo Faty Jerome Rothen Takashi Inui Takashi Usami Steven Pienaar Tolgay Arslan Loris Nery Wissam Ben Yeder Angelo Ogbonna Yoann Gouffran Marc Planus Ludovic Obraniak Emanuel Herrera Anthony Mounier Daniel Congre Pablo Hernandez Arda Gueida Fofana Arnold Mvuemba Steed Malbranque Nuri Sahin Kwadwo Asamoah Christian Maggio Henri Saivet Massadio Haidara Jean-Christophe Bahebeck Mladen Petric Real Betis Riccardo Montolivo Lucio Christophe Jallet Gokhan Inler Ilkay Gundogan Marvin Martin Steeve Elana Alain Traore Renaud Cohade Geoffrey Dernis Daniel Avles Patrick Helmes Raobin van Persie Pablo Armero Rondon Fabio Borini Patrick Herrmann Jonathan Scmid Kostantinos Fortounis Vincent Pajot Josua Guilavogui Idrissa Gana Gueye Ezequiel Munoz Nene Oliver Sorg Davide Brivio Sebastian Larsson Franceso Totti Tom Trybull M'Baye Niang Jean Daniel Akpa Akpro Matias Silvestre Euro 2012 Olof Mellberg Crisitano Ronaldo Alvaro Arbeloa Sebastian Boenisch Alan Dzagoev Andrey Arshavin Michael Krohn-Dehli Vaclav Pilar Theodor Gebre Selassie Gordon Schildenfeld Greece Miguel Veloso Mark Davies David Hoilett Santiago Garcia Marco Rignoni Vicente Guaita Michael Rensing Paul Robinson Fabien Audard Thomas Vermaelen Younes Belhanda Aurelien Chedjou Nancy St. Etienne Lukas Piszczek Dante Gijon Claudio Pizzaro Racing Santander Jonas Hannover Santander Claudio Pizarro Cesena David Jarolim Joe Cole Moussa Dembele Yakubu Javier Hernandez Leon Best Benat Kaiserslautern Christian Tiffert Paolo De Ceglie Federico Balzaretti Jeremey Menez Juan MGladbach Andreas Ivanschitz Jires Kembo-Ekoko Guillaume Hoarau Florent Malouda Steve Gohouri Kenwyne Jones Lecce Stephen Ireland Jakub Blaszcykowski Christian Fuchs Sloan Privat Abraham Guie Guie Louis Saha Martin Harnik German Bundesliga Grant Holt Ali Al-Habsi Ludovic Sane Aldo Angoula Younes Kaboul Brest Marcelo Stiliyan Petrov mathieu Valbuena Tono Ramirez Gianluca Buffon Emile Heskey John Utaka Markus Rosenborg Marko Arnautovic Jonathan Biabiany Andrea Caracciolo Evian Thonon Gaillard Mohammed Abdellaoue Dijon Anton Ferdinand Betting Eric Mouloungui Cedric Bakambu Gregory Pujol Eduardo Ribeiro Sebastien Larsson Nolan Roux Bradley Johnson Jamie O'Hara Wes Brown Jason Lowe Jose Enrique Anders Lindegaard Mark Schwarzer Cheik Tiote Alberto Aquilani Danny Murphy Martin O'Neill Modibo Maiga OGC Nice Perparim Hetemaj Alejandro Faurlin Leon Britton Antonio Nocerino Maximiliano Moralez Claudio Marchisio Marco Rigoni Simone Pepe Heidar Helguson Mark Gower Blackburn Emanuele Calaiò Zlatan Ibrahimović Germán Denis Jose Jurado Nicolas Anelka Edgar Barreto Alexandre Song Shaun Wright-Phillips Nicolas Maurice-Belay Jhon Jairo Culma Kevin Anin Sebastien Corchia Kevin Theophile-Catherine FC Cologne Julien Feret Jaroslav Plasil Yann Jouffre Tomas Rincon Kevin Davies Giampiero Pinzi Tamas Hajnal Camel Meriem Frederic Bulot AS Nancy Gabriel Torje Lynel Kitambala Florent Sinama-Pongolle Idriss Saadi Oscar Trejo Botelho Juanlu Axel Bellinghausen Gonzalo Castro Andrea Cossu Marcel Schafer Marco Hoger Timothy Chandler Bolton Wanderers Ivan Klasnic Paris St Germain Wolverhampton Wanderers Wigan Athletic Javi Varas Blackburn Rovers Stephan Lichtsteiner Anotnio Cassano Scott Sinclair Nenad Milijas Anatoliy Tymoshchuk Luis Gustavo Ruud van Nistelrooy Benoit Cheyrou Lucho Gonzalez League Analysis Walter Samuel Christian Chivu AS Roma Stephen Warnock Martin Kelly Gary Caldwell Karl Henry Kevin Doyle England National Football Team Javi Venta Vicente Iborra Sergio Ballesteros Bobby Zamora Jonas Gutierrez Dariusz Dudka Youssouf Hadji Christian Abbiati Alvaro Dominguez Phil Neville Senad Lulic Filip Daems Ezequiel Schelotto Victor Ruiz Jonathan Pereira Anthony Reveillere Santiago Gentiletti Cheikh Diabate Nicolas Spolli Luciano Fabian Monzon Mauricio Isla Ignazio Abate Titus Bramble Leroy Lita Christian Lell Philipp Wollscheid Milivoje Novakovic Tottenhman Hotspur Johan Cavalli Eliseu Serdar Tasci Ryan Babel Aleksandar Ignjovski Chechu Dorado Djamel Mesbah Arsenal Swansea Ashely Williams Piscu Eden Dzeko Emmerson Boyce Auxerre Phil Bardsley Jose Bosingwa Gretar Steinsson Mattia Cassani Jonathan Woodgate Germany National Football Team Gasperini Mauro Zarate Diego Forlan Estaban Cambiasso Juraj Kucka Marco Faraoni Joel Obi Benedikt Howedes Clemens Fritz Chris Lowe Daniel van Buyten Albania Yann M’Vila Baptiste Reynet Angelo Palombo Eric Tie Bi Chris Mavinga Aaron Hughes Chris Baird Raul Aly Cissokho Alessandro Del Piero France National Football Team Marc Tierney Bundelsiga Raul Bobadilla Loric Remy Jean Pascal Mignot Mainz 05 Schalke 04 Marcel Risse Steven Reid Danny Gabbidon Michal Kadlec Paulo Machado Ben Watson Spain National Football Team German National Football Team Bundeslgia Ricardo Carvalho Ivan Ramis Diego Colotto Sergio Fernandez Sere A Cesare Bovo Miguel Britos Bostjan Cesar Jose Angel Gabriel Heinze Chris Samba Charles N'Zogbia Yohan Demont Rod Fanni Rudy Mater Georgios Tzavellas Javier Pinola Dennis Aogo Daniel Schwaab Attacking Full-Backs Defensive Wingers 2010/11 Attacking Wingers Nicolas Douchez Under-21 Team of Season 2010-11 Maxi Rodriguez Crossing Wingers Under-21 Team of Season All-Round Midfielders Benoit Pedretti Rising Stars Kyle Walker Gaetano D'Agostino Centre Backs Paulo Da Silva Ivan Hernandez Eric Abidal Weligton Borja Ekiza Alassane Toure Stephane Grichting Jordan Loties Kader Mangane Adama Coulibaly Pedro Geromel Neven Subotic Christian Zapata Roger Johnson Stephan Lichsteiner Reto Ziegler David Vaughan Seb Larsson Asamoah Gyan Benoit Pedretti Anthony Mounier Simao Duda Alvaro Cejudo Xabi Prieto Alexsandar Kolarov Guiseppe Mascara Simone Bentivoglio Fernando Marques Gian Piero Gasperin Thomas Hitzlsperger Rafael Van der Vaart Theofanis Gekas Gerard Asamoah Youssef Al Arabi Lisandro Loric Remy Victor Hugo Montano Edison Cavani Sergio Pellissier David Di Michele Steward Downing Spain Under 21 Felipe Caicedo Pierre Webo Youssef El-Arabi Brown Ideye Mobido Maiga Chu-Young Robin Van Persie Kevin Gamerio Udinese. Alexis Sanchez Sami Allagui Frédéric Kanouté Renato Augusto Jonathan Pitropia Eljero Elia Ivo Llicevic Diego Perez Alvaro González Abel Hernandez David VIlla Marcel Schmelzer Danijel Pranjic Holger Badstuber Sven Bender Johan Djourou Darren Fletcher Carlos Kameni Thiago Silve Antonia Di Natale Cristiano Zapata Domenico Criscito Luis Jimenez Josep Ilicic Samuel Eto’o Alexis Thébaux Ludovic Sané Mamouda Sakho Boukary Dramé Daniel Alves Nikolay Mihaylov Charles Puyol Ji-Sung Park Edwin van der Sar Dani Alves John O’Shea Park Ji-Jung Gabi Fernandez Jonathan de Guzman Michael Owen Gary Taylor-Fletcher Ian Evatt DJ Campbell Charles N’Zogbia Wolverhampton Avram Grant Conor Sammon Wayne Bridge Rob Green Victor Obinna Mike Hanke Borussia Munchengladbach VfL Bochum Tomasz Kuszczak Martin Olsson Brett Emerton Steven N’Zonzi Muset Ozil Gianpaolo Pazzini Leonardo Seydou Keita Miguel Pallardo Ibrahim Afellay Valdo Pallardo Damien Perquis Luka Modrid David SIlva Benoit Assou-Ekotto Vedran Corluka Saloman Kalou Clarence Seedorf Matteo Brighi Fabio Simplicio Rodrigo Taddei Mark Van Bommel Gennaro Gattuso Kevin Prince-Boateng Nicolas Burdisso Elkin Soto Pep Gaurdiola Antonio da Silva Robert Mak Heurelho Gomes Andre Marriner Pinto Alavro Arbeloa Alexander Hleb

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