Eden Hazard would slot comfortably into the upper echelons of the Manchester City squad, yet the Belgian international continues to mull over his future destination.
The one-man rumour mill has reportedly told the Belgian media that he does not know when his future will be resolved, but he will be at either Chelsea, Manchester United or EPL champions Manchester City at the start of the 2012- ’13 campaign.
Hazard’s agent, John Bico, has informed the media that terms have already been agreed with all three clubs, but a final decision is yet to be made by the 21-year-old Belgian international.
"Eden has already said he wants it (the transfer) to be fixed before June 2. He will decide after the games against Montenegro and England, and then go on holiday with peace of mind," said his agent.
The Lille winger added: "The final choice also depends on how much play that I would get and the position where I play.”
It is this quotation that perhaps leads to a particularly intriguing question surrounding a potential move to Manchester City. If Hazard was to make the Etihad Stadium his home, how would be fit into Roberto Mancini’s title-winning team?
Will Hazard be a first-team regular? If so, who will he replace? Would he be happy to play in a rotation system? And, does Manchester City’s style of football complement the playmaker’s natural flair and technical ability?
Manchester City’s Premier League squad is capable of producing two completely different starting XIs that could be regarded as title contenders. Hazard will face competition for a place from the moment he puts pen to paper.
It is an issue that he will not face at Chelsea. The Champions League winners lack pace, width and creativity; three traits that Hazard has in abundance.
At Manchester United, competition for a place on the wing would arguably be more fierce than the two other clubs the Belgian has been linked to. Ashley Young, Nani, Antonio Valencia and Ryan Giggs could limit the starting opportunities for the playmaker, especially if they are in good form.
If Hazard was to sign for City, he would most likely fit in by replacing Samir Nasri. The former Arsenal midfielder has failed to impress at his first season at the Etihad, an error that could make Hazard a more desirable starting option for Roberto Mancini. Hazard’s game does suit Mancini’s preferred 4-2-2-2 approach meaning he would be able to act as a worthy replacement.
Nasri’s poor form meant that the Citizens became too dependent on David Silva, who became visibly exhausted from his influential role towards the end of the season. The Gran Canarian Silva was nowhere to be seen from the end of January, and often became the player substituted to change the team’s attacking dynamic, the best example being when he was replaced by Carlos Tevez when City were trailing Sunderland 3-1 at home.
Hazard is equally capable of providing the same flamboyant spark of creativity from the edge of his opponent’s penalty area. Not only will this ease the workload on David Silva, it will also provide enough competition to ensure that both players perform to the highest level their potential allows them to.
The Belgian would also add a new dimension to Manchester City’s style of play; width.
Roberto Mancini’s men were unable to utilise the midfield flanks last season, instead relying upon Micah Richards, Pablo Zabaleta, Gael Clichy and Alexsander Kolarov to break forward. This overly exposed Manchester City on the counter-attack, a weakness exploited particularly well by Neil Warnock’s QPR side. Liverpool and Chelsea were also quick to capitalise on it.
At present, the only natural winger Manchester City has in their team is Adam Johnson; a creative youngster who has seen his importance diminish to that of a squad player. With Eden Hazard also in the squad, Mancini would have the option to play the two wingers on opposite flanks. This will allow City to be more rigid in defence without compromising their forward momentum.
By using this system, Yaya Toure and Gareth Barry would be able to control the centre of the park while the wings will be covered by the full backs. Consequently, the Citizens will be much less exposed on the counter-attack.
Playing a with more width could also better utilise the services of Edin Dzeko. The Bosnian striker is a competent header of the ball, a trait he owes to his tall frame. With Hazard in the squad, City would have the option of getting the ball wide and whipping crosses in for the likes of Dzeko to get their head on.
It is not a style of play that is likely to be Roberto Mancini’s first choice, but it would give the manager more tactical flexibility against opponents that are difficult to break down. Hazard is a player that can play in a variety of roles.
Eden Hazard has the potential to fit in supremely at Manchester City. Not only will his arrival add competition to an already talented squad, it will create a wealth of tactical varieties for Roberto Mancini to experiment with as City attempt to defend their Premier League title and create an endearing legacy.
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