Perhaps not coincidentally with Eden Hazard's revival as the Eden Hazard of old has come a new tactical wrinkle on his starting position. After years spent on the left wing, our best player has been deployed more centrally, as the de facto No.10 in the 4-2-3-1 formation. This is apparently something that Hazard himself asked Mourinho for. And Mourinho, the big stubborn baby that he is, actually obliged!
Now, in a way, logically speaking, Hazard's revival being due to a new position doesn't quite make sense. He was England's best on the left wing last season; the logical thing would be to keep him playing there to continue the world class performances. But perhaps he needed the slight change to shake him out of his comfort zone, to get him to fully pay attention once again, and rise to the new challenge. Hopefully he can not only maintain this rediscovered form, but also maintain it when he gets switched back to the left wing.
"I think his best position is the position where last season he was the player of the season. There he can attack defenders more in an individual way. When he gets the ball it's more about him attacking the right-back and the right-back is always in trouble against a player who has his best quality in a one-against-one."
"When he plays at number 10 he gets into areas where sometimes he is surrounded by teams with two or three players in the same zone. Many times he receives the ball with his back to the opponents and I know he can turn well but I also know that players can be very aggressive with him and press him from behind and make lots of fouls like he always had."
"He can do both things. Let's see match after match what we think is the best for him it depends on what we want for the game."
-Jose Mourinho; source: FourFourTwo
Hazard getting double- and triple-teamed is nothing new, but one thing the more central position has got going for itself is having a few more options as far as outlet and passing directions go. When he's surrounded on the wing, he can either try take on the world, come inside, or retreat. When that happens centrally, he has potential outs all around. Clearly, the bigger problem is the fact that he gets surrounded so often and so easily, and a lot of that is on the rest of the team making the proper runs and posing a proper threat to the opposition.
Regardless of where he starts, Hazard's versatility, combined with the rest of our attacking midfielders' versatility leads to plenty of fluid formations and play in the final third. At least in theory. As long as the performances remain closer to last year's Hazard than this year's, I don't think we'll have too much cause for complaint as to his exact position.