Chelsea signed Eden Hazard from Lille in 2012. The 21-year-old playmaker was coveted by many, but it was the Blues who got the signature. Right from his first competitive game against Wigan to his last against Arsenal, Eden Hazard has dazzled at the club. There have been some substandard patches, but his brilliance has outweighed them by far. In his seven seasons at Stamford Bridge, the supporters have seen many facets of the Belgian on the pitch. As Eden Hazard looks set to depart Chelsea, we will use analysis to look at how his game has evolved at the club.
Eden Hazard – the transition from Lille to Chelsea
Hazard won the league and cup double in 2011 with Lille, but his best season in France came after that. In the 2011-12 campaign Hazard recorded 20 goals and 16 assists as he was named the Ligue 1 Player of the Year for the second season running. He was the attacking fulcrum of that team. Eden Hazard took 2.8 shots per game in the league that season. He has failed to cross that mark in any of his seven seasons with Chelsea
Surprisingly, 1.6 of those shots came from outside the box. That indicates a percentage of 57%, which is a significant fraction of shots from an unfavourable area. Hazard took 1.2 shots per game from inside the penalty area in that season. He bettered that tally in four seasons at Chelsea. In short, Hazard was an inefficient shooter at Lille. Maturity and better players around him changed must have changed that at Chelsea.
Due to the goalscoring burden upon him, his dribbling was also scuppered to an extent. The dribbles attempted were similar, but he just got better at making them successful at Chelsea. His pass success rate also went up at Chelsea, from the lower 80s at Lille to higher 80s at the Blues.
Debut season at Chelsea
Hazard’s first season at Chelsea was a success. He did take time to settle in, though, and the numbers show that. The goals, key passes, and dribbles completed were the lowest in his first league season. He recorded 11 assists though, which he only managed to better last season. The Belgian was acquainting himself to the pace of the game, and a little dropoff was natural.
Jose Mourinho and first trophies
Jose Mourinho arrived in 2013 and Hazard morphed into an efficient winger in a 4-2-3-1 system. He attempted 6 dribbles per game in the league in 2013/14. The number went up to 7.4 in the next season as Chelsea won the Premier League. In an organised Chelsea side, Hazard handled much of the attacking burden. He made 58.4 passes per game that season, which was by far his high for Chelsea in a season.
Hazard’s pass success rate was 87% that season, which was another best. His defensive contributions also went up under Mourinho. He attempted more than a tackle per game in his first four seasons. In the last three campaigns, that number has dropped as he has assumed a more central role. Hazard was an efficient winger under Mourinho, but that disintegrated in the 2015-16 season.
Conte, Sarri and central transition
Antonio Conte was the next man in, and Hazard found a new lease of life under the Italian. Conte deployed a 3-4-3 system. Hazard played the left inside forward, a role which suited him well. He took 1.5 shots from inside the penalty per game in the 2016/17 season. That number went to 1.6 the next season. He was playing more centrally, devoid of defensive responsibilities. Just how he liked it.
His dribbling was smothered a bit, but he was still going past defenders frequently. He attempted 3.2 long balls per game in 2016/17, which was his best in a Chelsea season. This highlighted his tendency to come into central positions and bring the wing-backs into play.
Last season was his only one under Maurizio Sarri, but he hit new heights in many categories. He recorded 16 goals and 15 assists in the league, both of which are career-highs. Hazard took 2.5 shots per game, which was also a personal best. However, his 3.7 completed dribbles were less than what he managed in all but two seasons. Arguably, he enjoyed his best season at Chelsea under Sarri.
Hazard came to Chelsea as an inexperienced winger. He continued in that position for a while, but he has evolved into a more central player over the years. More than one manager has tried him as a striker as well. When his inevitable move to Real Madrid materialises, much will be expected of him. It won’t be an easy task in La Liga, but he has gone through change at Chelsea which will help him immensely in Spain.