Eden Hazard will need to be the Eden Hazard of 2014 for Chelsea to get to where they want to go. He needs to earn back the fear that he struck into the hearts of defenders on Chelsea’s way to a Premier League title.
Eden Hazard is once again looking like he did in Chelsea’s title-winning Premier League campaign two years ago. He endured a poor showing last season, owing to a combination of being unfit, injured and tired of the Special One. Regardless of the reason, Chelsea needs him running at defenders and stretching the pitch again.
Hazard earned Premier League Player of the Month honors for August, scoring two goals and registering one assist in the Blues’ first three matches. This is a significant return to form, as he needed nearly all of last season to net his first goal.
Without Champions League football this season, a title run and top four finish must be the goal for Chelsea and Antonio Conte. With the personnel changes bringing new faces and a familiar one into Stamford Bridge, Hazard will once again be instrumental.
The Blues will need more than the 92 points sufficient for their title in 2014 to win this year’s campaign. The Manchester clubs will particularly raise the bar, bolstering their already world-class lineups to go with world-class managers. Hazard will have to be at his very best once again to enable Antonio Conte’s rise alongside Pep and Jose.
Last season’s failures had many roots: bad luck, too many distractions, Jose being Jose. Chelsea was unrecognizable from the team that cruised through squads with ease one year before. Hazard was so good that campaign he inspired comparisons with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Jose Mourinho went as far to say Hazard would cost “£100 million for each leg“. Hyperbole, yes, but still quite the compliment. To put this into perspective, Hazard led the 2014/15 Premier League with an average 4.8 take-ons per 90 minutes played. He also averaged 2.64 chances created per 90 minutes.
Riyad Mahrez was Player of the Year last season. He averaged 3.90 take-ons and 1.76 chances created.
Between injury and the risk of suspension, Diego Costa being able to stay on the pitch for an entire season. Cesc Fabregas is not currently in Conte’s eleven. This adds to the urgency for Eden Hazard to score goals and create chances for others.
He has the support he needs to succeed, including a manager who knows how to talk and treat footballers at the highest level. Hazard made this point recently, perhaps taking a poke at his former manager.
Chelsea also has a new strike option in Michy Batshuayi. The young Belgian needs to prove he can handle the pressure and style of play in the Premier League. He needs to show he can maintain his form while being kicked and fouled at an alarming rate.
Chelsea needs to get back to where Roman Abramovich expects to be. To get there, Hazard will need to carry the offense. With age and injuries damaging the back four who were so paramount to the last title, Hazard shoulders more responsibility to control matches. This is the season that Hazard will earn that £100 million per leg price tag.