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Keep, Sell, Loan: Eden Hazard's 2015-16 season in review

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Taking a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of each and every Chelsea player's season. Next up, Eden Hazard, Chelsea and Belgium national team star.

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Appearances: 35 starts (+8 as substitute).
Minutes: 2191 in Premier League; 364 in domestic cups; 526 in Champions League.
Statistics (per 90 minutes, Premier League): 57.5 passes attempted (86% completed); 3.65 successful take ons (61.81% successful); 2.87 fouls suffered.

PFA Player of the Year. Premier League and League Cup winner. Main player for one of the best national teams in the entire world. Everything seemed to be aligned for Eden Hazard to take the next step in his career, to cross the boundary between the great players and the chosen few who dispute the Ballon d'Or and similar accolades.


Sure, it wasn't ever going to be easy.  But to argue that it was a task too hard for him to carry out would've been a disservice to what he had accomplished up to that point in his career and especially the previous season. Throughout that year, Hazard had been a constant thorn in the side of our adversaries, scoring goals, collecting assists, dominating games, and rarely missing time due to injury.

Some of that did depend on his supporting cast — Fabregas and others drawing opponents' attentions away — and when those structures crumbled this season, Hazard found himself in the position of "saviour of the squad" once again. This wasn't an unusual place for him.


Something was different. He was no longer blowing by opponents, or taking them on even.  His passing was off, his shooting, already an area of weakness, became nonexistent. Hazard failed to record a single goal in the first half of the season; he didn't collect his first Premier League goal until the final few games of the season.  It was all very, very strange.

Hazard, for the first time in his career, seemed to struggle not only with staying fit — a nagging hip injury plus a groin injury limiting him to fewest appearances since his debut season at Lille in 2008 — but also with confidence in his own abilities.  It's a vicious cycle, injuries and confidence and results and it looked like Hazard would forever be stuck in it.


Finally fit in late April after a couple months on the sidelines, Hazard's returned with a vengeance.  He scored all of his 4 Premier League goals in the next 4 matches, including 2 absolute beauties against Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool. The former not only won the prize of Chelsea's Goal of the Season, it also won the Premier League.  Twelve months prior, his goal against Crystal Palace won Chelsea the league; now his goal won the league for Leicester City (and, as added bonus, sent Spurs into a rather Spursy tailspin that saw them fall to third on the final day).

He's back!

The Good: The last five games of the season, starting with his return from injury against AFC Bournemouth.

The Bad: Outside of a couple games in November (and the aforementioned five at the end), the rest of the season.

The Ugly: His apparent injuries being centers of two unfortunate episodes (the Carneiro incident in the first match of the season and against Leicester City in Mourinho's final match in charge).  And then there was that League Cup-ending penalty miss against Stoke City.  And all those horrible games, like vs. Liverpool.  So many to choose from!

Verdict: Hazard said that he's 99% sure of staying at Chelsea, but the 1% left doesn't seem too worrying at the moment as rumours of his exit to Real Madrid or PSG, for just about the first time since joining Chelsea, have died down despite his late insurgence. When fully fit and at the top of his confidence, Hazard is definitely a world-class player and a constant threat to anyone who dares to stand on his way, and for that alone we must keep him.

In theory, there are only a few players in football who would be real upgrades over Hazard, and even fewer of them would actually be feasible transfer targets for Chelsea. Hazard's style could evolve under Antonio Conte, perhaps he could even see playing time as a central attacking midfielder, which seems to be still his preferred position.  Either way, the future should be bright (or at least brighter than this season was).