Eden Hazard has been arguably the Premier League’s flagship talent ever since he joined Chelsea from Lille in summer 2012. His skill and ingenuity has inspired the Blues to two Premier League titles during that time, but could it be that we’re only now starting to see the Belgium international at the true extremities of his powers?
Considering the ability Hazard has consistently shown over the last five-and-a-half years, that may seem an audacious claim. But Antonio Conte’s decision to move his most potent creative threat from the left flank to a freer, more nomadic central role has elevated Hazard’s form to arguably the highest levels we’ve seen yet from the 82-cap international.
Indeed, Conte’s tweaking of last year’s hugely successful 3-4-3 setup has seen Hazard line up directly behind Alvaro Morata on occasion this season and the two have already struck up quite the partnership. Even when one of the two struggles to impact the scoreline – as was the case against Liverpool on Saturday when the Spanish striker endured a quiet evening at Anfield – their connective movement and understanding continues to benefit the other.
The 1-1 draw on Merseyside provides the perfect case in point, particularly during a first half in which Hazard became almost a one-man wrecking ball, punching holes through Liverpool’s midfield and defence on the counter-attack. The 26-year-old’s display in the second half wasn’t quite as talismanic, but he still provided the assist for Willian’s fortunate equaliser and continued to cause problems for the Reds’ backline.
Overall, Hazard finished up with six created chances, four accurate crosses and a staggering 10 successful dribbles to his name, while he completed 91% of his attempted passes. Even by Hazard’s usual standards, that’s a rather illustrious return for an away game against a big six rival in which Chelsea failed to dominate possession.
That owed much to Morata’s link-up play and his ability to occupy defenders with smart runs, drawing them away just enough to create space for Hazard roaming behind him. The ploy has certainly proved successful when utilised by Conte this season, but is the No.10 role supporting Morata now Hazard’s best position? Let us know by voting below…