Eden Hazard has endured two years of contrast at Chelsea after going from top of the pile to barely making the team.
Last season the Belgian was voted Player of the Year by his peers. He scored 17 goals in the league, contributed nine assists, created 101 chances and, unsurprisingly, he was the most fouled player in the league. Almost a year on, Hazard is a shadow of the player he was - scoring only two goals alongside four assists in all competitions it is clear to see Hazard’s influence has waned.
The stats don’t improve the situation either; Hazard has created only 56 chances, his shot accuracy has dropped below 40 percent and he is yet to score in the league.
Hazard struggled in the first part of the season alongside almost every single one of his teammates under the guidance of Jose Mourinho. When the Special One was turfed out and for the second time, Guus Hiddink was charged with salvaging Chelsea's and Hazard's season.
The team has improved in the league where they are unbeaten since December. Whilst the performances of Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas and Oscar have all improved. Chelsea managed a mere 18 goals in 16 games before Mourinho left Stamford Bridge. However after his departure, in 14 games the Blues have netted 24 times. Yet despite this upturn in form Hazard (minus his FA cup double) is still to find the net in the league, in fact he has yet to have a shot on target in ten games since Hiddink’s arrival.
A lack of confidence is hindering the playmaker. Mourinho's relationship with the Belgian seemed strained at times. Firstly, the Portuguese felt Hazard’s calls for the medical team in the final minutes of a 2-2 draw with Swansea were unwarranted. In Mourinho’s final game he spoke about the lack of ‘serial champions’ in his team, a jibe allegedly aimed at Hazard. He shared his doubts on his ability to operate defensively in the No.10 role. And after another injury suffered at Leicester, Mourinho suggested Hazard’s must have 'a serious problem’ this was, however, an indirect suggestion of the former Lille man's lack of commitment.
Hazard’s father, Thierry, suggested the incident wasn’t major, but his body was tired, later going on to suggest he was being forced to play through the pain barrier which has contributed to his lack of form.
Fatigue is almost inevitable in the Premier League, especially for the likes of Hazard who has played 186 games in the last three years. Until now the Belgian had enjoyed a relatively injury-free career, but with his workload and the fact he has become a marked man by oppositions, his fitness has suffered. Hazard has struggled with persistent hip and groin problems and as his father pointed out that the hectic schedule the club have hasn't allowed Hazard to have a proper recuperation period.
It is not uncommon for some players to experience a lack of hunger. Arsenal’s Per Mertesacker described himself as having a World Cup hangover after lifting the trophy with Germany, saying: “In the first months, it was quite difficult to come down and to forget that feeling of being a World Cup champion. I didn’t play at my best and that was because I hadn’t experienced this feeling before. Sometimes I didn’t know how to handle the situation.”
Hazard ended last season as a Premier League and League Cup winner in what was his most fruitful campaign and he maybe experiencing that same mentality issue as Mertesacker.
Many pundits and fans alike have compared Hazard to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. But in actuality Hazard, by his own admission, has a different mentality. “I realise that I will never be a true scorer. It's not in me. It is mainly mental...Sometimes I still think, after a goal, 'that's enough’,” Hazard explained.
It’s clear to see Hazard's seemingly lackadaisical attitude may prevent him from ever emulating the world’s best. And certainly this season there is no danger of him outperforming himself.
Hazard's stock has fallen whilst others has grown for example the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alvaro Morata & Kevin De Bruyne. Mourinho last summer said Hazard was not only in the top ten but in the top three players in the world. On current form Hazard is barely in the top ten, making next season a crucial one for the Belgian.