Analysing how Eden Hazard tormented Bournemouth in Chelsea's 3-0 victory
Eden Hazard’s performance against Bournemouth on Boxing Day was further proof, if it were needed, that he is back to his mesmeric best. The Belgian scored from the penalty spot in Chelsea’s 3-0 victory, which extended their Premier League winning streak to a club record 12 matches. It was Hazard’s ninth goal of a campaign that has not even reached the halfway mark. To put that figure into context, he netted only four times in the whole of last season, one from which he and his team-mates appear to have fully recovered. The appointment of Antonio Conte as manager has definitely had the desired effect.
Goals are an important part of any attacking player’s repertoire, but Hazard’s game is about much more than just the end product. Against Bournemouth, he demonstrated that he is an all-round player of the highest calibre, capable of scoring goals and creating chances in equal measure. Hazard was key to Pedro’s opener against the Cherries, locating Cesc Fabregas with an incisive pass before he set-up his his fellow Spaniard, whose audacious chip found the top corner. The second goal was all about Hazard. He gave Simon Francis a torrid time and his trickery forced the Bournemouth skipper into conceding a penalty, which was coolly dispatched by the 25-year-old. A late own goal added gloss to another victory.
Chelsea’s success this campaign has been built on their team ethic, but it was Hazard who rightly took the plaudits and walked off with the man-of-the-match award. Sure, the opposition will not have been the strongest he has come up against, but that shouldn’t detract from his breathtaking display. The swagger that was conspicuously absent last season has returned. Not only is Hazard confident on the ball, but he is working hard for his team-mates with his clever runs off it. On several occasions he turned on the after-burners and terrorised the Cherries defenders, pulling them out of position.
The form of Hazard, who has won 76 caps for Belgium, is in stark contrast to his performances last season. Much had been expected of him, having been crowned the PFA Players’ Player of the Year for 2014/15. But, like the majority of his team-mates, the former Lille star suffered an alarming dip that resulted in Jose Mourinho losing his job. Perhaps Mourinho was a contributing factor, but Hazard certainly has to take some personal responsibility for failing to live up to his standards. Either way it’s now academic, as whatever issues he had have been resolved. Chelsea in particular – and the Premier League in general – are much better off for it.