LONDON — Amid the euphoria surrounding Chelsea’s title charge, Eden Hazard‘s play has flown under the radar all season long.
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The 26-year-old Belgian winger is hitting peak form at just the right time as Antonio Conte‘s men have opened up a 10-point lead atop the Premier League table with 11 games to go.
In the 2-1 London derby win at West Ham United on Monday, Hazard was awarded the Man of the Match award as his opener from a lightning fast counter attack showcased exactly why this Chelsea team is running away with the league.
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Following his impressive display, Pro Soccer Talk asked Conte about Hazard’s devastating ability on the counter and just how important he is to this Chelsea team.
“Eden is really important for us; we all know that. He’s a really good player with great technique and talent,” Conte said. “It’s better when he plays between the lines to score on the counter-attack. It’s not his specialty but he’s very good at receiving the ball, going one v one and beating his opponent to score the goal. We also have other options of scoring a goal on the counter-attack, people like Willian and Pedro and Costa, and this is also good.”
Even if Conte also said that he wants more goals from Hazard (he has 11 PL goals and four assists this season ) it’s clear to see just how important he is to this Chelsea team and it’s also unsurprising to once again hear transfer links with Real Madrid after another magical display.
With passes off his back, clever flicks into strikers and electric pace on the counter, Hazard has it all. He is regaining the form which saw him lead Chelsea to the title in 2014-15 as he was crowned as the PFA Player of the Year in the process.
When he gets the ball it is almost like a trigger for the other attacking players and midfielders to spring into life. In the 3-4-3 system he has been given more license to attack and Conte has allowed Hazard and his forward partners to express themselves in the final third. We’ve seen that in recent weeks, no more so than when he scored a sublime individual goal in the 3-1 home win against Arsenal in February.
With N'Golo Kante an interception machine in midfield, Hazard has the freedom to stay out wide and then drift inside to launch counters before combining with Pedro and Diego Costa, just like he did on Monday.
Hazard’s form last season was heavily criticized with Chelsea finishing in 10th place and Jose Mourinho being fired, but Chelsea’s fans know their Belgian ace is now back to his best and he’s one of the most important players, if not the most important, for the west London club.
For most of this season Costa has got the headlines for his goals, Kante for his incredible industry and Chelsea’s switch to a 3-4-3 which led to defensive solidity has also been widely lauded, but Hazard’s return to world-class form has gone a little unnoticed.