Eden Hazard is happy.
He’s said so repeatedly since a summer filled with largely self-generated transfer rumors. At the end of last season, despite winning the FA Cup, Eden joined the chorus of growing discontent with Antonio Conte, and hinted that it might be time for a change. That change never really materialized outside of the tabloids’ back pages, but it certainly helped that the change the did materialize was at the head coaching position. Conte was out, Sarri was in, and Hazard was back to being happy. And they lived happily ever after.
“Of course [I am happy with the new manager and tactics]. We try to keep the ball. When you are an offensive player you just want to keep the ball. We create a lot of passes and chances. [Last Sunday] we had a bit of trouble [against West Ham] but I think the beginning of the season was great.”
“[Sarri] is a great manager, but it’s easy to say when you are winning games. We will see in a bad moment. For sure he is a great manager, and he showed that to the world.”
-Eden Hazard; source: Sky Sports
Hazard and Sarri appear to be developing a mutually beneficial relationship. The player is happy, the coach is happy, so what’s the problem?
Well, for one, the contract situation remains unresolved and could drag on for a while yet. An offer to make him the highest paid player in Chelsea history has been on the table for over a year, but he’s delayed and delayed. He wants to be back in the Champions League, a fate that he himself can actually control at Chelsea. He wanted Chelsea to show some ambition this summer, which the club surely have with the signing of Jorginho, Kovacic, and, not to mention, Sarri himself. And yet, as we approach the 18-month expiration mark, the question of the new contract cannot be ignored for much longer. The excellent start to the season (and just playing every 3-4 days in general) has diverted attention from this issue, but it should not be forgotten.
A good season helps both player and club of course, and if worst comes to worst, Hazard’s transfer value will only be helped by success on the pitch, especially if it’s matched by goals. Right now, Hazard leads the Premier League with 5 goals, but consistency in that department has eluded him for much of his career. And that’s other constant issue when it comes to Eden Hazard, especially when the narrative insists on comparing him with Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Only once in 10 professional seasons has Hazard cracked the 20-goal mark, and never in Chelsea colors. We only have to compare his last two games — a hat-trick against Crystal Palace and a disappearing act against West Ham — to see these imperfections laid bare.
In the background, Sarri and his coaching staff are actively working on helping a 27-year-old Eden improve in this department.
“He is getting better and better but hasn’t reached his full potential. This year we will help him to reach that full potential.
“I don’t want to look like we aren’t happy with him, we are very happy. The more experience you have the more better way you use it. It’s a process he can do himself. The way we try to play it will benefit himself. We try to play a long time in the opposition half. The more that we can do that the better. It is just a normal process. It’s about giving him the opportunities in the best way, close to the goal.”
-Gianfranco Zola; source: Football.London
Hazard may not play today in the League Cup against Liverpool, but will certainly be relied upon on Saturday against the same team in the Premier League. He tends to be a big-game player, and will need to be at his very best if Chelsea are to topple the league leaders at the Bridge.
How far can Chelsea go this season? With Hazard on song, we can be unstoppable. And maybe that will finally be enough and make everyone happy.