This was the season that Eden Hazard was going to make the step up from a pretender to the real thing. After being adjudged the Premier League Player of the Year after a tremendous 2014/15 campaign, the Belgian was tipped to kick on and cement himself as one of the best players in the world.
It is shocking therefore, that let alone improve, Hazard has looked downright ordinary thus far this season. He is yet to open his account in the Premier League in the first 7 games, and has only registered 2 assists as well.
So what has gone wrong for the 24 year-old? Why has he suddenly gone so quiet, after being the shining light for the Blues last season? We take a look at 3 reasons why he has failed, and what Jose Mourinho can do to improve the situation:
1) Over-reliance and the weight of expectation
Every player in the world, no matter how good, has a bad run of form. Last season, Chelsea were far too reliant on Hazard to come up with the goods in every game, and now when he has gone quiet, they are struggling to find an alternative. He played well even when the Blues lost, and it was apparent that every player looked to him for inspiration. With Diego Costa misfiring, the weight of expectation is far too heavy on Hazard’s shoulders and the pressure is clearly showing.
This is clearly a big cause for concern for Mourinho, as another source for regular goals and assists is nowhere in sight. Chelsea have struggled to break teams down without Hazard’s incisive runs and trickery in and around the box.
2) Lack of variety
Hazard’s style of play has become a bit too predictable, and opponents have figured a way to tackle him effectively. He drops back to pick up the ball and takes defenders on, rather than making the run in-behind for a teammate to pick out. Teams are double-teaming him and with the advantage of video footages, have found a way to keep him out of the box. With the Premier League being less technical compared to some others in Europe, no individual player gets a free run in any game. Hazard finds it difficult to penetrate when teams get 10 men behind the ball and shut up shop at the back.
A big reason for his successes last season was the link-up play with the forwards, but that has been non-existent as well this season. It has therefore, become easy for teams to chalk out an exact plan to nullify Hazard and in the process, nullify Chelsea as a whole too.
3) The player is as team is
While no one expected Hazard to go off the boil so suddenly, nobody expected Chelsea to be in 15th position in the league after 7 games either. The Blues as a whole have flopped miserably, and apart from Asmir Begovic, Cesar Azpilicueta and Kurt Zouma, not one player can say he has performed to the best of his abilities.
As mentioned in the point on over-reliance, the other players can’t expect Hazard to bail them out every single time. He is still a brilliant player, but can’t bear the burden of the entire team week-in, week-out. Once the team starts functioning as a whole, the Belgian will be able to play with a lot more freedom, as was the case last season. The goals and assists will follow suit, along with the swagger that has long deserted him.
While it does seem highly unlikely that Hazard will ever reach the levels of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, his current slump in form can be largely attributed to Chelsea’s wobble. He will not be able to perform with the responsibility of the entire side riding on him, and the sooner the other superstars get back to their best, the sooner we’ll see the Hazard of old return.