Eden Hazard has started the season in great form for Chelsea with five goals in his first five matches. At the weekend, he scored a hat-trick to help the Blues come from behind to beat Cardiff City. It was a superb individual display and supporters are hoping that the Belgian international is finally ready to fulfil his undoubted world-class potential under Maurizio Sarri. BBC Sport reported the following quotes from the Italian about his player:
“We have spoken and I told him he can score 40 goals. He has to improve some things, but he can do it.”
Since joining the club in 2012, it has been expected that Hazard would reach the top of the European game. Chelsea beat several top European teams to capture his signature. However, the lack of stability at Stamford Bridge has hampered his development. He has never scored more than 20 club goals across all competitions in a single campaign.
Although he contributes regularly, he has yet to have a huge goal-scoring season and that has led to critics suggesting that he isn’t one of the best on the continent. Those that watch him regularly will contest that, as his technical ability is there for all to see. There are few better dribblers across Europe and the space that he creates for others in the opposition half underlines his quality. The only thing that has been missing is deadly end product.
Under Sarri, that could be added to his game. Another Belgian, Dries Mertens, was transformed from a good attacker into a deadly goal-scorer under the tutelage of the Italian coach. Across the last two Italian seasons, the 31-year-old scored 46 goals in Serie A. Prior to that, his best league goal-scoring season was during 2013/14 when he scored 11 times.
A major reason for that development was that Mertens was moved into a centre-forward position. That has yet to happen with Hazard, but the Chelsea attacker has been used in a free role in the attack with license to roam. It also looks as if he has been encouraged to be aggressive and get into goal-scoring positions rather than drop deep to get possession at every opportunity.
It has been an excellent start from Hazard, as he has contributed two assists alongside his five Premier League goals. He is averaging 2.8 shots, 3.6 dribbles and 2.2 key passes per game, which emphasise how good he has been during the early stages of the season.
After the World Cup, it would have been expected that Hazard may have a slow start to the season with Chelsea. It looked that way early on as he didn’t start the first two matches. However, he managed to have an impact as a substitute and Sarri quickly realised that he needed to get the 27-year-old in the team.
Although it is too early to state with confidence that Hazard is going to go on to have a record-breaking season in front of goal, the early indications are positive. He already has five goals and he looks to be full of confidence. If Chelsea continue to develop under Sarri, there is a great chance that the Belgian international will be in line for individual awards at the end of the season.