Chelsea’s slow start to the new season has seen most of their top players under-perform individually, which has all but ruled out the possibility of the reigning champions regaining their title.
One of the most disappointing stars for Jose Mourinho’s men so far this term has been Eden Hazard, who has not been anywhere near his devastating best.
The Belgian winger was a driving force in the Blues’ double success last season and proved his individual ability by being awarded the PFA Player of the Year award. However, this term and with his team-mates also struggling, Hazard has not had as significant an impact for the West London club as in past campaigns.
One of the key questions over his dip in performance level has been the attacker’s best role in the Chelsea side.
Although he has played the majority of his football on the left wing throughout his career, this season Mourinho has resorted to using the former Lille man as the attacking central midfielder in his 4-2-3-1 formation and even as a lone striker.
But, looking at Hazard as a way of solving Chelsea’s current woes and maximising his impact in the long run, what is his best position?
There is no doubting that using the Belgian on the left wing, allowing him to get to the byline and deliver or to cut in-field and shoot, has been a massively successful ploy for the Blues. Hazard and Chelsea are likely to improve as the season progresses as they simply have too much quality to continue their early campaign malaise. As such, there is no reason that the 24-year-old can’t get back to the same rich form that he was in last term and even improve by playing on a flank.
Against Norwich recently Mourinho opted to play Hazard as a ‘No.10’ behind a lone striker, in arguably the attacker’s best performance of the season. The Belgian clearly has the footballing intelligence, dribbling ability and speed to be a real menace between the lines for his team, even if he lacks the range of passing of someone like Oscar.
Mourinho was vocal in stating that Hazard was not an ‘in the hole player’ and his future at Chelsea would not be in that role, but there is a case to suggest it could well be a positional change to reignite the forward.
Playing Hazard centrally would offer him an opportunity to have more positional freedom and allow him to get on the ball in threatening areas on a more regular basis.
With Chelsea in dire need of some extra penetration and drive in the final third, this could well be the change in tactic that allows it to happen.
Finally, against Tottenham Hazard was the furthest man forward as Diego Costa watched on from the bench.
Although his pace offers a threat in behind opposition defences, it is clear that he lacks the predatory instinct or hold-up play to function as a lone striker.
It will be interesting to see just how Mourinho uses Hazard going forward, but he could well be advised to go back on his previous sentiment and deploy his most devastating attacking weapon in the main playmaker role to get him firing again.