Is Eden Hazard too good for Chelsea?
Background photo: Vespa, CC-BY-SA 3.0
The major highlight in Chelsea’s defeat to Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley wasn’t Harry Kane’s dive and VAR’s poor decision. It was Eden Hazard’s constant glare at Marcos Alonso over the Spaniard’s poor decision-making.
In the aftermath, BBC Radio 5 Live pundit Jermaine Jenas suggested Hazard had become too good for Chelsea, that the entire Chelsea squad was below Hazard’s high standard.
Should we agree with Jenas? Is hazard too big for Chelsea? To decide, we must answer two other questions.
How big is Chelsea?
When someone asserts Hazard is bigger than Chelsea, they should remember the Blues are a humongous club in both historical and contemporary terms.
Chelsea and history have been allies since Jose Mourinho arrived in 2004. The Blues instantly became the toughest side in the Premier League and dominated the top flight for two years. When the Portuguese departed for Inter, the squad's hard edge smoothed but just a bit. From 2004-13, they won three League titles, four FA Cups, the Champions and Europa Leagues.
Those triumphs didn’t come without turbulence. They changed managers like a lady readying for a first date. Between 2004 and 2015 Chelsea played under twelve managers counting Mourinho twice but Ray Wilkins, who took charge for a single match, not at all. During that chaotic stretch, the Blues never endured a trophy-barren campaign. Following Mourinho's disastrous 2015/16 campaign, Steve Holland managed a game and Hiddink returned before Antonio Conte arrived to win a fifth Premier League crown and an FA Cup in his two seasons. Chelsea spent the cash and earned the results. It was what attracted Hazard to the club in 2012.
The numerous managerial tweaks led to a constant change in philosophy. At times Chelsea was an exciting team to watch, during others not. Mourinho and Conte, why are you whispering to each other in the back?
With their pedigree, Chelsea is among the three or four teams with a realistic chance of winning the Premier League [almost] every year. You can’t put it past them to win the Europa League although the Champions League remains a Stamford Bridge too far. I'm sorry Liverpool and Manchester City, but I think that's the case for every Premier League club. If one does win it will be by a stroke of luck similar to the Blues' in 2012.
Besides Hazard, the current Chelsea squad is littered with quality. Kepa Arrrizabalaga is proving to be better than David De Gea this year. Barcelona is still crazy over Willian. Jorginho is the best passer in the Premier League. N’Golo Kante is still regarded as the best defensive midfielder in the world even if Maurizio Sarri doesn't care. You’ll be hard-pressed to find daredevil defenders like Cesar Azpilicueta and Antonio Rudiger in other squads. However, like any big club in Europe, the Blues need to spend more on quality players and owner Roman Abramovich is starting to think about investing in his retirement.
How big is Eden Hazard?
He’s a colossus. Hazard can take your breath away. The man is fast, double-footed, intelligent with the ball and possesses outrageous dribbling skills.
Since he joined Chelsea, the 28-year-old has consistently been regarded as the best player at the club. He’s plundered every domestic title in England, as well as the Europa League. He’s been voted PFA Player of the Year and featured in four PFA Teams of the Year. He’s dominated the division.
In terms of scoring, Hazard falls short. He’s Chelsea’s top scorer this season with 14 goals in all competitions. That said, the Belgian hasn't scored 20 in any season for Chelsea.
Astonishing dribbler, quick and highly technical, but he’s no Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar or Kylian Mbappe. Glance back at his age for a minute.
Eden Hazard is a great player, truly a joy to watch when in his element and the ball boy is willing to give up his treasure without a fight. Unarguably, the best Premier League player in one-v-one situations, he will spice up any side.
But he is not bigger than Chelsea. He can search where he chooses for immortality and his departure will definitely weaken Chelsea but they will be far more than nothing without him. Better still, the club is prepared to prove it. Why do you think they signed Christian Pulisic?