Chelsea dominated the Premier League last season and claimed the title. While players of the calibre of Alvaro Morata joined from Real Madrid it was a difficult summer transfer window. Nemanja Matic, who had been vital to the team since returning from Benfica in 2014, left for title rivals Manchester United. In a move that shocked many Chelsea opted to replace the Serb with Tiemoue Bakayoko from Monaco. Issues surrounding Diego Costa could not be resolved as the deadline passed and it was left until the end of September to announce his return to Atletico Madrid in January.
Possibly the worst piece of news going into the new campaign was the injury to former Premier League player of the season Eden Hazard. The tricky Belgian attacker broke his ankle in a national team training session. The injury was initially thought to be more severe but fortunately for his club side he did not suffer any ligament damage. Antonio Conte slowly reintroduced Chelsea’s star man. He created a lot of chances and notched up 3 assists before getting on the score-sheet against Bournemouth.
While Chelsea may have been weakened, slightly, by the transfer market Conte should not be worried. His side have been keeping within touching distance of the Manchester sides and Tottenham at the top of the league. Boosted by the return of Hazard expectation must rise and the standard of football must improve.
The squad at Conte’s disposal is not weak. Willian provides high work rate and quality on the ball. He has a great delivery from set pieces and is a threat in shooting positions. Pedro offers something different. A good dribbler with exceptional movement who is always likely to grab you a goal. But non of them can deputise for an in-form Hazard.
Hazard has everything. He has attracted interest from Real Madrid so he must be doing something right. His main strength has to be his dribbling. He commits defenders and the threat he carries frees up space for his team mates. He can change direction swiftly and accelerate away from defenders. He scores goals and he creates chances. A very well rounded player who contributes often really makes a difference to any side. While the squad that Chelsea have is strong Hazard gives them a spark. He is a catalyst that inspires the players around him.
With a tough fixture coming up in the Premier League against United, Chelsea will need Hazard now more than ever. Not just his goal against Bournemouth but his performance will have wetted the appetite of Chelsea fans. In the big games teams need their best players and Hazard represents that for the London club.
Can Chelsea reach the heights they did last season? It is a tough ask. The gruelling schedule they now face with Champions League commitments put the pressure on the high intensity game that they play. One thing is for sure. Hazard will need to perform at his best if Chelsea are to be successful. With a new striker in the team he will need to chip in with goals and create chances for Morata. Chelsea have performed satisfactory in his absence. But now the season seriously starts for Chelsea.
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