Whilst Chelsea haven’t quite hit the heights of last season, the club are still involved in the Premier League title race and have progressed into the knockout phase of the Champions League.
Ahead of the festive fixture pile-up, there are concerns about the Blues’ strength in depth; however Eden Hazard is hitting absolute top form as we head into one of the most challenging periods for top flight teams.
Since his arrival from Lille, the Belgian has often been seen as the Premier League’s best player, he often doesn’t take the headlines that he would if he played for Manchester City but on his day there is nobody better in England.
He has adapted to the league sensationally well and can control matches on his own with his surging runs from a wide position, it is easy to see just why Real Madrid have periodically scouted him over the years.
Despite their title triumph last season, it wouldn’t be unfair to say that Chelsea don’t have many game-changers in attack. Pedro hasn’t recreated his form from last year, Willian is talented and industrious but limited whilst Alvaro Morata is more of a poacher.
Hazard is the club’s world class attacking talent and it shows, he often carries the team. He embarrassed West Bromwich Albion a fortnight ago and seems to thrive on being criticised by opposing supporters.
It’s difficult to see Chelsea winning a trophy this season, Manchester City look so dominant domestically and Antonio Conte doesn’t have the depth to put together a serious tilt at the Champions League.
However, if the club are to get anywhere near either crown then Hazard will be crucial and it is vital that he has found such unplayable form at a time when matches are coming thick and fast, momentum will be pivotal.
He has scored five goals and contributed two league assists this term but his contributions have been far greater than the numbers would suggest. He ran the recent 3-1 victory over Newcastle with ease, he carried the ball from unwanted areas and made the Blues a real threat after going a goal down.
It was the sort of individual performance that makes you sit up and take note, especially with England set to face Belgium in the World Cup in the summer.
Hazard regularly gets overlooked as people have simply become accustomed to his presence. Perhaps he has missed the boat to join one of Spain’s big two and he is playing in a team that is infinitely less adventurous that Pep Guardiola’s side, you do wonder just how much more praise the Belgian would receive if he was playing in the Manchester City team at this present moment, he is certainly good enough to.
Hazard won the PFA Player of the Year award for the 2014/15 season, he was phenomenal, yet his achievement is tinged with the fact that many consider that to have been one of the poorest Premier League seasons in recent memory.
Unfortunately, for many this achievement fades into history as Riyad Mahrez’s a year later has done, players who have had a fine season against very abject competition.
Whilst this may be the case for the Algerian, it’s incredibly unfair to Hazard who has been consistently fantastic throughout his entire Chelsea career.
Champions League knockout ties often hinge on individual quality. Look how many times Cristiano Ronaldo’s goals made the difference for both Manchester United and Real Madrid. Hazard can have the same impact for Chelsea as the competition moves into the latter stages.
Before the trip to the Emirates Stadium on January 3rd, Chelsea face West Ham United, Huddersfield, Southampton, Everton, Brighton and Hove Albion and Stoke City.
Whilst the opposition in this run of fixtures could have been tougher, the sheer number of matches will test Chelsea.
Eden Hazard might not be able to play every single match, however he will need to make the difference if Chelsea are to string together wins and put pressure on the two Manchester clubs.
At 26 years old, the Belgian forward is entering his prime, he has found a consistency that he lacked in his younger years and is Chelsea’s most decisive player by some distance. The team’s attacking play is built around him and for the moment he is in fantastic form.
Written by Chris Winterburn
Follow Chris on Twitter @cmwinterburn
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