Eden Hazard Vs Shinji Kagawa has been the topic of a lot of fans over the last week, both arrived in the English Premier League during the summer 2012 transfer window, but until this season, their respective footballing paths had never crossed. Hazard, born in Belgium, found his way to France and entered the LOSC Lille youth academy. He eventually broke into the Lille first team and became a superstar in Ligue 1.
Last summer, his fine play was rewarded with a £27 million move to Chelsea FC. This season, Hazard has won many plaudits for his direct wing play, his chance creation and goalscoring ability, as well as his versatility to play anywhere across the front line. On the other hand, Kagawa was born in Japan, where he began his football career at Cervezo Osaka. After four years at the Japanese club, he transferred to Europe and joined Borussia Dortmund, where he enjoyed a breakout year in 2011-12, catching the attention of top clubs across the continent. Just days after Chelsea reached a deal with Hazard, Manchester United announced that they had agreed to sign Kagawa from Dortmund for a fee of up to £17 million. Kagawa has unfortunately spent much of his first season in the EPL on the sideline as a result of injuries, playing just 828 minutes compared to Hazard’s 2123 minutes. Despite this, Kagawa has looked very bright on the pitch—he scored a hattrick against Norwich City earlier this month.
The question I intend to answer with this article is as follows: which new arrival has had the better season? Most neutrals would probably point to Hazard—he has been the focal point of Chelsea’s attack time after time this season, and while strikers like Fernando Torres and (more recently) Demba Ba have suffered goal droughts throughout the season and Chelsea’s management system has spiraled into chaos, Hazard has maintained consistency on the pitch.
However, I feel that Kagawa has not yet been given a chance to play HIS game at United. 13 games is not enough time to showcase the man’s talent. He was far and away Borussia Dortmund’s brightest star last season, and I predict that Kagawa will have a fantastic season next year. But, let’s take a look at the statistics and see whether Kagawa is able to match up with Hazard, or whether the Belgian truly has had the better debut season in the EPL.
[box_light]Note: Remember all of these stats are Opta Stats and Premier League only.[/box_light]
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Both Hazard and Kagawa were brought in by their respective clubs for one reason: to create and score goals. Hazard typically plays on the left wing, allowing him to cut in onto his stronger right foot and either shoot or play someone else in. However, as I mentioned before, the Belgian is quite flexible in his playing position, and can play anywhere across Chelsea’s front four. His brilliant goal against West Ham last weekend came from the right side of the midfield and demonstrated his adeptness with his weaker foot.
Hazard’s versatility is reflected by his nearly even percentages of where he passes the ball. However, Shinji Kagawa is also able to play across the midfield. At Dortmund he usually played as an attacking left midfielder, and at United he has played on both the left and the right (with Wayne Rooney usually taking the role of second striker or CAM). His pass direction statistics are similar to Hazard’s, though his passes go forward much less frequently than the Belgian’s. This could be a sign of a lack of confidence in the Japanese player; the first EPL season for any footballer is never easy. I think that more of Kagawa’s passes will go forward as he gets more minutes on the pitch and his confidence grows.
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Going by the simplest of statistics (goals and assists), one might assume Hazard’s superiority in the attacking zone, as he has scored more goals (8) and made more assists (8) than Kagawa (5 goals, 2 assists). Indeed, the Belgian’s assist tally does deserve praise—he is tied for third in the league in that category, ahead of the likes of David Silva and only two assists behind league leader Juan Mata. In fact, the Belgian has better stats than the former Dortmund man in nearly all creation categories. Hazard creates chances more often than Kagawa, and has proven himself to be a quite adept dribbler, as well. His 46% dribble success rate is better than that of Luis Suarez, known to be one of the trickiest forwards in the league. The only area in which Kagawa is superior to Hazard is cross accuracy. However, Kagawa has only attempted 13 crosses this season compared to Hazard’s 94, so this comparision is virtually irrelevant.
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Despite the Belgian’s superior creation ability, goalscoring statistics give Kagawa the edge. Remember that the Chelsea winger has played nearly three times the minutes that the United midfielder has this season. In fact, Hazard has created a goal every 132 minutes, while Kagawa has created goals at a more frequent rate of one goal per 118 minutes. In addition, Kagawa converts his chances better (shown by his Norwich hat trick—Hazard has never scored more than one goal in a single EPL game), and the Japanese player puts his shots on target more frequently. Thus, while Hazard has the advantage in creation, Kagawa wins in terms of chance conversion and goalscoring (Editors Note: Its clear Shinji’s hat trick spruces up his stats here – Eden Hazard has played three times the game time that Kagawa has).
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Without a doubt, Shinji Kagawa edges Eden Hazard in the area of possession and passing. The United midfielder’s open play pass completion rate of 91% is nothing short of immaculate, and his final third-rate is nearly as good. In addition, Hazard is dispossessed far more often than Kagawa. Despite all this evidence in favour of Kagawa one must remember that only 16% of his passes go in the forward direction, compared to Hazard’s much-higher 29%. Whether this discrepancy can be attributed to confidence levels, a difference in play style, or some other factor is not for me to decide, but it is important to remember this fact when comparing the two players’ passing abilities.
One relevant (though miniscule) statistic is that Kagawa has completed 4 of 8 through balls this season, while Hazard has completed 5 of 7. There is not much of a difference here, and could indicate that Kagawa does possess at least the same passing ability as Hazard does. Once again, my guess is that it’s a confidence issue.
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This is probably the most vital section of this player comparison. Individual statistics don’t matter at the end of the day if the team cannot get all 3 points. The table above compares United’s and Chelsea’s points per game with and without Kagawa and Hazard in their respective lineups. At the top of the table, United obviously bring in more points per game than Chelsea do. However, their points haul suffers considerably when Kagawa is in the lineup, compared to virtually no change from the norm from Chelsea when Hazard is in the lineup. There could be a correlation between Hazard and points for Chelsea, while there seems to be little or no relation between the presence of Kagawa in the United XI.
So, who has had the better season? Based on these statistics, I believe that the answer is Eden Hazard. Though Kagawa has had a better season in terms of scoring and mins per goal (although his hat-trick skews this) and is a more consistent passer of the ball, his lack of attacking impetus and inferior creation stats, as well as his lack of influence on United’s points per game, give the Belgian the edge.
I believe that given more time in the starting XI, Shinji Kagawa will emerge to become one of the leading attacking midfielders in the Premier League next season. As his confidence levels rise, so will his creation statistics. Eden Hazard, on the other hand, is already in a very good position, having made a great début season. Time will tell whether he can continue his great form into the 2013/14 season, and whether Kagawa can return to his Borussia Dortmund form.
[box_light]All of the stats from this article have been taken from the Opta Stats Centre at EPLIndex.com – Subscribe Now (Includes author privileges!) Check out our new Top Stats feature on the Stats Centre which allows you to compare all players in the league & read about new additions to the stats centre.[/box_light]
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