Giving more importance to the tactics of this beautiful game is the main motive of this website and in doing so, it is important to give full credits to the best player who has been tactically sound and technically astute towards his side’s success throughout the whole season on a consistent basis. This piece is about Eden Hazard whom we think is the best Premier League Player for the season 2016/17.
Having failed to carry his form from the title winning campaign under Jose Mourinho, in the 2015/16 season, Eden Hazard was slated as one of the most important culprits to have cost the Portuguese manager his job at the Stamford Bridge. By scoring 14 goals and assisting his teammates 9 times, he played the most influential role towards the title two years ago. He was awarded the PFA Player of the Year award and the Premier League Player of the year for his contributions all over the 2014/15 campaign and helping his team lift the first Premier League trophy since Carlo Ancelloti’s famous double with the London club.
Uncharacteristically, in the worst title defence in the history of Premier League which was broken by Leicester in the last season, the man who was touted as “one among the top three in the world” by his manager, led down the latter by poor showing in the whole campaign. His performances saw a huge drop as he was able to find the back of the net only four times in the whole of Premier League last season. His contributions to the team also saw a massive dip as he was only able to create two-thirds of the chances to previous season as the stats read 99 chances created in the 2014/15 campaign compared to 66 chances in the 2015/16 season.
However Hazard has once again become ‘hazardous’ for the opponents and has shown renaissance under ex-Italian manager Antonio Conte in the 2016/17 campaign. He has been the fulcrum of the team which exceeded expectations by winning 13 continuous games and went on to capture the title last season which they failed to defend in the previous campaign. Under the Italian, Hazard has seen his form once again hit the peak as he netted 16 goals and recorded five assists to his name in 36 games in the league. He has also increased the bar by creating more chances this term. In this article we can have a brief look at his key moments in the season and how he has helped his side to reach the pinnacle with his crucial contributions.
Hazard under Conte
Hazard’s playing position and role under Conte has been the oft discussed topic among pundits and analysts when looking into Chelsea’s attacking display this term. In the previous seasons, he has been often played as the left winger in a 4-2-3-1 whereas this term he has been given the free role revolving around the classic no.10’s position. This allows him often drift into the center from the left creating more chances and threats rather than aligning himself in the left half space and wings.
In this 3-4-3 adopted by Conte at Chelsea, he is given the role of a “fantasista” as called by the Italians. This means that his starting position is much less wider when compared to the 4-2-3-1 system. This makes him to play with less pressure regarding defensive duties as he is relieved from marking the opposition right back. This allows him to exploit more in the attacking third leaving the defensive duties to the wing back who plays behind him.
The movements, especially off the ball, are brilliant to watch. Diego Costa is crucial in this aspect as his dropping off movements creates space for Hazard to move into. He occupies an average position on the pitch higher than that of Costa in many cases. Another interesting aspect is that Hazard has the freedom to roam way out of position and is sometimes seen down the right flank. Given the role of chief creator in the team, Hazard has the license to receive the ball when and where he pleases and the Belgian does not fail to deliver.
He is devoid of any defensive work and is usually seen in the opponent’s half trying to break forward on the counter at times. This should not be confused with a misconception that he does no defensive work at all as he falls back gradually and makes up the compact midfield bank of four. However, Marcos Alonso does the job for him in clearing up the mess with Nemanja Matic (the left sided central midfielder) drops into the left half space and makes sure that Hazard is covered well.
Key moments in the season
Chelsea 5-0 Everton (5 Dec 2016)
This performance against Everton, on the first week of December, was said to be the best display by the Belgian in Chelsea colours this season. Scoring twice in the 5-0 win over Everton earned him great plaudits as he put up a brilliant attacking display with an astute pass completion of 94% and earned a performance score of 136 as per Squawka.
Graphic courtesy: www.squawka.com
Performance scale of Hazard vs Everton
The above graphic shows his gradual increase in overall performance score during the game against Everton. His influence in the game was certainly telling as he created more chances along with the two brilliant goals. His passes especially in the left flank created havoc as he was able to find Alonso in the wide areas and Costa in the centre at regular intervals.
Hazard’s passes vs Everton
Chelsea 3-1 Arsenal (4 Feb 2017)
One moment in this game proved very special when Hazard caught Arsenal defenders napping to score Chelsea’s second goal from open play. This was Hazard’s goal of the season in which he dribbled past them with ease in the attacking third and slotted the ball low into Cech’s net. This showed the confidence he had revived as a player after a poor performance in the previous season.
Chelsea 2-1 Manchester City (5 Apr 2017)
In the game against the title rivals, Hazard was in impeccable form as he scored the two goals in Chelsea’s 2-1 win over the Cityzens at the Bridge. Hazard had the most number of shots and dribbles completed, four each, in the game for the Blues. Though the away team were the better side on the night by dominating for larger periods, Chelsea were able to see out the game and get three points thanks to the Belgian.
Cheslea 4-2 Spurs FA Cup Semis (22 Apr 2017)
The game was locked 2-2 at the hour mark. Eden Hazard was brought on to replace Willian in a game which was being dominated by Spurs with Chelsea scoring the two goals from two set pieces. Hazard had a brilliant impact and he changed the whole plot as he scored one and assisted another goal which helped Chelsea reach the FA Cup final.
This season he has completed the most dribbles and successful take-ons in the league. He has also collected 13 Man of the Match awards this season which is only second to the La Liga Player of the season 2016/17 – Lionel Messi, in Europe. For his brilliant displays this season, Hazard was named once again in the PFA Team of the Year. This is his fourth appearance in the TOTY in his five seasons at Chelsea.
To add to his credit, he was named as the Chelsea Player of the Season 2016/17 and he is one player who has seen a meteoric rise in form from the last season. Conte should be praised in seeing Hazard’s rise and this season has been the best return for him in terms of goals for the Blues. Keeping how he has contributed to the team in crucial moments and helping his side to a second league title in three years, Eden Hazard is Football Bloody Hell’s Premier League Player of the Season 2016/17.