First of all, we needed an excuse to post the video of Hazard scoring against Spurs, Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, and Arsenal — so that’s 5 of his last 12 goals in the league since last May — and scoring rather amazing goals at that. The counter against City is perhaps the most “ordinary”, with the individual efforts against Arsenal this past weekend and against Liverpool at the end of last season probably taking the top spot if we were to rank them.
But while this is all great and good, and we could argue that it means that Hazard tends to show up in the big games and so on and so forth ... but then again, he’s played Spurs twice now this season without scoring, and he wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire against Liverpool the other day or Arsenal in the first meeting of the season, but I digress. Or, actually, that’s not a digression at all.
What that exemplifies is that playing against the other teams in the top six is not easy — the top six being Chelsea and the current top six in the league, what others once called the “Sky Six” though I’m not sure that’s still a thing. Nothing’s easy in the Premier League of course, but the margins against the other big teams are so small that games can literally turn on just one play or one decision either from the players or the referee. Kevin De Bruyne’s hilarious miss comes to mind ... or Eden Hazard’s miss at White Hart Lane, for that matter, if we’re looking for a more sobering example.
In fact, as we’ve been talking about for the last couple weeks as we headed into this two-game stretch against Liverpool and Arsenal (winning 4 points out of 6, which is pretty darn good), Chelsea’s title-challenge is actually built on results against the mid-table and below. In fact, that unlucky draw away at Swansea remains the one and only game in which Chelsea have dropped points all season to teams outside of the current top six.
This is no joke; that’s Chelsea winning 15 out of 16 games and drawing the 16th — 46 points won out of 48 on offer. Spurs, who are nine points behind, have dropped eight more points to the same teams. That’s your difference right there.
We only have to think back to 2013-14, Mourinho’s first season back at the Bridge, when Chelsea were nigh unbeatable against the top six, but dropped points like those teams are doing this season. Or just look at Liverpool this season, who have the best record against the top six, yet have dropped 18 points to teams outside the top six. That’s almost the definition of playing up/down to the level of your opposition.
So, while it’s fantastic that Eden Hazard has scored once against each of the top six in the past 12 months, it’s equally fantastic that he’s scoring against the likes of Bournemouth, Everton, Southampton, Burnley, and so on.
And considering that Chelsea have fewer matches left against the top six (2) than any of the other top six teams (3-4), I’d say we’re looking in pretty pretty pretty pretty pretty ... pretty good shape.