Chelsea look set for another title run, but Eden Hazard remains the key
Maurizio Sarri has worked wonders in his short time at Chelsea. Chelsea has had an impressive start to the season so far, unbeaten in all competitions and sitting two points off the leaders Manchester City and Liverpool, in the league table.
They have had relatively kind fixtures that have enabled them to adapt to Sarri’s methods and maintain their position towards the top of the table. Their unbeaten start was always going to be tested by the doubleheader against Liverpool. Putting aside their impressive start, these games would reflect the amount of progress Chelsea has made under Sarri.
Not only did they impress, but Chelsea also quashed the theory that this year’s league would be a two-horse race. With a win and a draw against Liverpool, Chelsea can be considered genuine title contenders. Whether they can sustain this challenge over the course of the season comes down to the form of one man: Eden Hazard.
Hazard, to put it mildly, has been brilliant during the start of this season. The Belgian captain has 7 goals and 2 assists in all competitions and is finally beginning to fulfil the potential everybody knows he has.
His impressive performances have seen him climb to the top of the scoring charts in the Premier League, and, under Sarri, he looks like a player reborn. Unshackled from his defensive duties, Hazard has been given the license to wreak havoc in the opposition territory and the Chelsea man has certainly delivered.
Despite their impressive start, Chelsea has been guilty of not finishing off their opponents. Against Newcastle and Bournemouth, the game was only settled in the last 10 minutes and carved out uneasy 1-0 victories over their Europa League opposition.
Liverpool provided a stern reality check for this Chelsea back line, and Maurizio Sarri must be aware that he cannot mount a serious title challenge with David Luiz, looking ever so shaky in the heart of the Chelsea defense.
Their inability to kill off games was exposed when Daniel Sturridge, who equalized in the 89th minute, scored a goal that will surely be a contender for goal of the season. Though it is unlikely that every opponent will be capable of the heroics Liverpool pulled off, Sarri must surely be concerned at the lapses in the concentration of his defense.
The uncertainty at the back only adds more pressure on the front three. Unfortunately for Chelsea, both Giroud and Morata are not in the best goalscoring form, even though the latter did score against Mol Vidi in the Europa League. Sarri has to find different alternatives for his goals as Chelsea seem too reliant on Hazard to unlock the opposition.
For now, though, Chelsea have a player who seems rejuvenated under new management. He has a coach who believes in him and has to build his team to suit the Belgian’s attacking talents. Sarri-ball is perfectly suited to the way Hazard likes to play. He has more touches on the ball in the last 30 meters on the field and has used his freedom from defensive responsibility to terrorize the opposition every time he gets on the ball.
With Hazard in this kind of form and a few minor tweaks in defense and midfield, Chelsea will believe that they can be at the business end of the table and serious contenders towards the end of the season.