After some spotty form earlier in the season, Eden Hazard has been back to his fantastic best in recent weeks. Having a strong debut season in England, Hazard’s form since has been a little patchy. Against Crystal Palace, Hazard was superb and showed what he can really do when he is on form. Chelsea went into a game where they should win but, Palace has had a bit of a revival under Tony Pulis and gave Chelsea a very tough game. With Chelsea competing for the title, picking up points against teams like Palace is crucial and Hazard made sure they did not slip up.
Hazard was the dominant attacking force for Chelsea. He attempted more passes in the attacking half than anyone else in the league over the weekend. Hazard also attempted more passes in the final third than any other player this weekend and completed 56% of those passes, more than any other Chelsea player. Hazard’s best attribute is his creative edge and this was on display against Palace where he created six chances, more than anyone else in the game. Hazard entered the penalty area six times, more than any other player, and made Chelsea’s only attempt of a through ball.
The Belgian international is a player that likes to cut inside and take people on but, as a winger, Hazard needs to keep the width of the team. Against an organized team, like Palace, keeping the width is vital to breaking the team down and scoring goals. Hazard was successful at staying wide and, for the most part, stayed out wide pinning his full back until they got to the penalty box where he then cut inside to do his damage. When he got the chance to cut inside, Hazard would get his head and use his vision to find a pass. When a pass was on, he cut the ball back and that is how he created all six of the chances he created. With his attacking play, Hazard also prevented Palace full back, Joel Ward, from getting forward to supplement the attack and provide crosses. This is where the expression “the best form of defense is attack” really comes into play because by stopping full backs from putting dangerous balls onto the heads of players, like Marouane Chamakh and Cameron Jerome, this makes the Palace attack less potent.
Hazard did end the game with one assist and that was typical of his play. He got near the end line before cutting inside his defender. Hazard went past his defender and into the penalty box where he had his head up for the pass. Because he had been able to get past his defender, all six of the defenders in the area turned their attention to Hazard with three running to close him down. This meant that both Ramires and Juan Mata where left right on the edge of the penalty area unmarked. Hazard was able to pick out Ramires who, after taking a touch, fired an absolute screamer into the top corner past Speroni. This proved to be the winning goal and could prove as crucial should the race for the top spot(s) get even tighter than it already is. While it only worked to this great effect once, Hazard repeatedly was able to get into positions to create chances this way. Hazard created five other chances pulling the ball back and attempted to do it many more times. Hazard’s direct and skillful approach was able to carve open Palace’s defense time and time again helping Chelsea get those all important three points.
Chelsea fans will hope Hazard can keep this run of form going with them going into some tough fixtures, like on Monday the 23rd against current table toppers, Arsenal. When Hazard is able to get himself into top form he is very tough to play against and, he is one of the most dangerous players in the Premier League. While he has not had this kind of form all season, he has put on some performances to show he may be rounding into this devastating form that he is capable of. If he can achieve that form and turn up consistently, Hazard will be a huge asset to Chelsea’s title challenge this season.