When you look over the course of football history there have been many changes in regard to formations. Whether it be the 4-4-2 that the English game knows and loves so dearly, or whether it is a more continental 3-5-2, there was one position that has continued significance.
That is, of course, being the coveted number 10 role, one that has arguably taken on more importance over the past few years what with the way that attacking units have evolved away from two recognised forwards up front.
Now there is a much greater prominence on the number 10 position as not only are they expected to chip in with their fair share of defensive duties, but they also need to carry out the tasks in which they were mainly employed for.
A task which means not just the creating of chances for their teammates but also the scoring of goals in a bid to help their club win the Premier League. So, the question that needs to be asked is just who currently is the best number 10 in the English top flight.
The answer may depend on who you support as there will undoubtedly be an element of club bias as to your decision, however, if we are looking at the question from a purely neutral stance then West London will be our port of call.
That is because when it comes to number 10’s one does not need to look much further than that of Eden Hazard. The Belgian international has been instrumental in Chelsea’s continued success since his arrival from French outfit Lille back in 2012.
His time at Stamford Bridge has seen him lift five trophies including two Premier League titles back in 2015 and 2017, while not forgetting that in 2015 he joined a select band of players to have won both the FWA and PFA Player of the Year awards in the same season.
That first league success saw the Belgian score 14 league goals as Chelsea romped to the Premier League title and it is evident that when Hazard ticks then so do the Blues. However, at the same time, the opposite can also be said.
You only have to look at the following campaign when Chelsea’s defence of the title was non-existent, the champions were closer to the relegation zone than they were at the top by the time they sacked Jose Mourinho.
That season was almost a damage limitation exercise and one that saw Hazard contribute just four league goals, a return that was not befitting of the talents that the mercurial Belgian so clearly possesses.
The task now for Hazard was to make sure that his title-winning efforts of 2014/15 were not just a flash in the pan. If Chelsea were to bounce back, then they needed their star man to be firing on all cylinders once more.
And the arrival of Antonio Conte as Chelsea manager seemed to do exactly that. After a shaky start to proceedings which included an emphatic 3-0 defeat away to Arsenal, it was as almost as if the former Juventus manager had an epiphany after witnessing his players suffer such a heavy loss.
It was one that saw Chelsea revert to a back three in defence, a system that in turn removed the shackles of Hazard especially as he made no secret of his reluctance to track back and help his team defend.
A reluctance that comes across as quite fair when you consider just how dangerous he is going forward. But at the same time, no one player is bigger than the club and that meant that when Chelsea had Hazard out wide, he was required to play his defensive part.
Now with wing backs deployed instead it meant that Chelsea’s number 10 had the freedom to roam and concentrate on the things that he does best. That being, creating but more importantly scoring goals.
And that is exactly what he did during the 2016/17 Premier League season, as we laid witness to a true return to form. What better way to silence your critics than by playing a vital role in Chelsea second league title win in three seasons.
The Brilliant Belgian scored 16 league goals that season, a new Chelsea career best as the West Londoners managed to keep their cross-town rivals Tottenham at bay in a hotly fought title race that went down to the wire.
But just as we’ve seen Chelsea win the title, they seem to be caught in a boom and bust cycle. The downturn in Conte’s second season was not quite dramatic as that of his predecessor Mourinho, but a fifth place finish in 2017/18 was still not enough to keep him in the Stamford Bridge hot-seat.
Even the fact that the Blues won last season’s F.A. Cup was not enough to save Conte’s job and who was the man who was responsible for that the Wembley win? None other than Eden Hazard, thanks to slotting home a penalty which turned out to be the goal’s only game against Manchester United.
So, with a new manager installed in the shape of former Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri, what has that meant for Hazard this season. Well if the early season statistics are anything to go by, could it end up being a third Premier League title in five years?
Hazard has shown just why he is the best number 10 in the division with 7 goals already this season, a goal haul that comes after just ten appearances. If you were to extrapolate that across the whole campaign, then you’re looking at him scoring somewhere in the region of 28 goals.
That is the challenge that he has been set by the current Chelsea boss. If he can increase his goalscoring ratio to that of the levels that Mohamed Salah was managing this time last season, then there is no reason why this number 10 won’t be lifting another Premier League trophy next May.
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