Hazard: In current Chelsea form, “I’m not longer immune” to benching

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Chelsea’s struggles this year have exposed a number of world-class players to lows they have never experienced before.

None perhaps moreso than Eden Hazard, who is without a goal through the first eight matches of the Premier League season.

While the defense continues to be skewered on and off the field, it is Hazard who finds himself lost on the pitch, absent for long stretches while his team looks to recover from conceding.

He was benched for the 2-1 loss to Porto in the Champions League as manager Jose Mourinho looked for a spark somewhere, anywhere. That moment had a major impact on Hazard’s mental condition.

“This is the first time in my career that I have had such a difficult spell like this,” Hazard said following Belgium’s 4-1 win over Andorra in Euro 2016 qualifying play. “I can’t really explain it. All I know is that I will need to work hard in order to bounce back. At Chelsea we have concerns both as a team and individually.”

The entire squad is struggling, so it’s hard to single out individuals for poor play, but unfortunately that’s manager’s job in an attempt to turn the team’s fortunes. Hazard, who was once the most electric and unplayable force in the Premier League and named Footballer of the Year last season, has gone completely quiet.

“We all thought that our recent win against Arsenal would give us lift-off – but instead we fell straight back into our bad ways,” Hazard explained. “I was left on the bench against Porto in the Champions League, and I am no longer immune to being left out. You can be untouchable when you play well, and that has not been the case with me. I think the manager wanted to send me a message by making me a sub. I don’t read everything he says, but he explains everything.”

Hazard is hoping to use the international break to kickstart his season, which playing with a different squad can sometimes do for a player. He scored a penalty in Saturday’s 4-1 win over Andorra, and will be looking for more against Israel this coming week.

“I am an optimist, and I know I can learn a lot from tough spells,” the 24-year-old said. “I hope to come back stronger, and I am ready to play and do my best. I see my two games for Belgium this week as a launchpad for my season with Chelsea. I am looking forward to the Euro 2016 finals, but will only start thinking about them once the domestic season is over.”