I just wanted to write a quick piece on something I haven't noticed discussed often enough on this site.
When people ask me who Chelsea's player of the season is, there is no doubt it'd be Eden Hazard. I imagine most would agree with Terry, Cahill and Azpillicueta also being 2nd 3rd and 4th in whatever order. The player I want to talk about is perhaps therefore not so unsung as I stated in the title, but the particular aspect of his play I will talk about is what's unsung. The player in question is Cesar Azpillicueta.
When people talk of Hazard ruining teams and running riot I can't help but wonder if they have given any thought to the young spaniards role in this. After all, I should not be alone in saying that Hazards great form has coincided with Azpillicuetas shift to left back. On the 9th November, Azpillicueta started his first game at left back vs Steve Clarkes West Bromwich Albion. With a goal and an assist, in my belief this is the turning point of his season. Before this date Hazard had 3 goals and 2 assists to his name, a good total but one that was eclipsed by even his own teammate Oscar, who had 4 goals to his name by this point. Since then, Hazard has gained 8 assists and 10 goals and Oscar for that matter has only added 2 goals since.
So what has Azpillicueta's form got to do with Hazards incredible form?
Last season when I thought of Azpillicueta I thought of a Spanish style attacking fullback, this season, he has been anything but. A point backed up by the fact that even though Azpi was last season a squad rotation player rather than starter, he still managed 6 premier league assists with limited game time. This season he has 0 goals and 0 assists in the premier league. So effectively when Hazard started to hit top form, Azpillicueta started to nail down the left back starting spot. Although Hazard still does defend and puts in a good shift, what I have noticed is that mourinho seems to have taken the reigns of him a bit. He is allowed to defend at his own free will because Azpillicueta does not get forward. At the start of the season, Hazard had to pay much more attention in defence because Cole would be up and down a lot, therefore he would be starting his attacks from much deeper and have less effect. If you were too find a heat map of Coles positioning in a game compared to Azpi's, and as a result, Hazards positioning, it would be very useful to have yet another piece of evidence to back up my case but I can't find one.
Obviously Azpillicueta is not the main reason Hazard is playing so well. But I often ask myself, would he be playing so well if it wasn't for Azpillicuetas discipline and fantastic defending giving him a free reign. In fact there are many questions that this theory poses and would be interesting for you guys to discuss. Firstly, would Luke Shaw arriving buck this trend as he loves to get forward? If he does arrive could Azpi and Hazard both move to the right? If ivanovic similarly was more disciplined (he can't cross anyway so it would benefit him) could Willian or Schurrle benefit?
What I'm trying to say is next time Hazard gets us up off our feet; Spare a thought for Azpillicueta.