There are two Premier League statistical categories that Eden Hazard has led regularly each and every season since 2012: successful take-ons (dribbles) and fouls suffered. So far this season is looking no different, even though Eden’s own fitness issues have limited him to just 133 minutes. Still, he’s averaging over 6 successful take-ons per-90, and has already been fouled 8 times (and those are just the ones that have been called), an average of 5.4 per-90 — both per-90 figures the highest in the league for any player with at least 90 minutes played through the first three games.
On Sunday, against Newcastle, there was a clear rotation of players set to harass him, very much like what took place in our 1-0 win over Manchester United in the FA Cup two seasons ago. Back then, that approach got Ander Herrera an early bath and a red card for persistent fouling. This weekend, lenient refereeing from Paul Tierney allowed Newcastle to employ these tactics at will, and free from proper punishment until their first yellow card on 65 minutes. Hilariously, Chelsea midfielder Mateo Kovačić was actually the first player to receive a booking 25 minutes earlier.
Former Chelsea manager Rafael Benítez, who certainly knew what Hazard can do from his time at the club in 2012-13, attributed his current team’s ultra-defensive tactics to playing to their limitations — or, as he said, “You have to drive the car you have”. He must’ve been reduced to bumper cars on the day, given the 5 called and the just as many, if not more, uncalled fouls on Hazard.
Fortunately, Eden’s used to this. If anything, the fouls make him play better. (Except when they don’t.)
“The Premier League is always like this — every weekend is the same. But I’m not complaining, I try to do my job and when you have the ball, you get kicked, so no complaints. You just try to play better.
“I felt tired after the game but, at the end, I was happy with the result and the goal. When you win games you forget that you are tired so now we have one week to rest and be ready for the next game.”
Eden wasn’t at his best against Newcastle, in part due to all the fouling and in part due to having to play the full match when his fitness was only good for about 60-75 minutes.
And yet, he was still instrumental in the 2-1 win, converting the penalty earned by Marcos Alonso that opened the scoring after 75 minutes, and winning the foul that led to the winning set piece ten minutes later. Three points is three points, and it’s only going to get better.
“We need to keep this momentum. We want to be at the top at the end of the season.
“This is just the beginning, but confidence is coming and goals are coming too.”
-Eden Hazard; source: Daily Mail