Can Eden Hazard continue his Chelsea resurgence in the Premier League?
In 131 minutes of pre-season action against Real Madrid, AC Milan and Werder Bremen, Eden Hazard has notched three goals and an assist for Chelsea. In the 2015/16 season, he managed four goals and four assists in 2,190 Premier League minutes.
After a superb pre-season, Antonio Conte and Blues fans will be hoping that the Belgian can return to the form which saw him sweep up the awards on offer as his team won the title thanks to his 14 goals and 12 assists in 2014/15 and the attacking midfielder has vowed to do all he can to get back to his best.
Last season was clearly one to forget for Hazard for both club and country, with disappointment on both fronts as Belgium crashed out of Euro 2016 against Wales and Chelsea slumped to a mid table finish. Pre-season has shown glimpses of his former self, single handedly attempting to mount a comeback against the European Supercup winners Real Madrid and galvanising a tiring side as they fought against a stubborn Werder Bremen.
The mazey dribbling skills and vision which saw him win the PFA Player of the Year in the past look set to be on their way back, sparked back into life under the tutelage of Antonio Conte. There were plenty of rumours of a fall out with former boss Jose Mourinho, apparently being fed up of his mind games, and the 25 year struggled to get going again mid-season.
The number 10 is now playing in a new role under Conte, figuring more centrally than previously seen at Stamford Bridge, more like he played at times in his spell at Lille in France. Usually used out wide with a preference to cut inside, Conte sees him as a true number 10, playing off a main striker, or behind a front two pairing. The role would give Hazard more freedom to express his creative side, which few can rival in the modern game.
With the Blues’ striker hunt reaching dead end after dead end following speculation linking them with the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Alavro Morata, an on form Eden Hazard would be the perfect substitute. If he can get back to his ways of creating and scoring goals as he has this season, then there should be no reason why Chelsea cannot mount a serious challenge this season.
The biggest concern for Chelsea is that they and their star man have lost their fear factor. Two years ago the sight of Eden Hazard running at you with the ball was enough to put any Premier League defender into meltdown, but last season he became almost the running joke that typified the Stamford Bridge club’s catastrophic season.
The Belgian, and his boss, will be hoping that this pre-season is a sign of things to come. If Hazard really can return to his best and prove that last season was a mere blip, he could well return to being talked about as a potential future Balon D’Or contender linked with the likes of Real Madrid and PSG, but if not, there will be big question marks over whether Chelsea need to sell for other reasons.
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— The Boot Room (@tbrfootball) August 10, 2016
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