Eden Hazard: Breaking Down His Chelsea Debut Against Seattle Sounders
Eden Hazard (£32 million man) made his long-awaited debut in Chelsea blue against the Seattle Sounders.
Although just a preseason friendly, the match interested many who were eager to see how Roberto Di Matteo would make use of his newly replenished squad—after all, it's simply brimming with attacking talent.
Let's take a look at Hazard's game and break down exactly how he was instructed to play.
Hazard's request to play as a No. 10 was duly granted in Seattle. He lined up just behind Romelu Lukaku in a centralised role and looked to pull the strings in Chelsea's midfield.
Marko Marin lined up on his left, while Yossi Benayoun ran around aimlessly to his right.
"Controlling" the midfield was not the Belgian's job during this game, as that particular task fell to Josh McEachran and John Obi Mikel.
Hazard's duties were made more difficult by the fact that these two failed spectacularly in this. They frequently gave the ball away by misplacing passes, and Mikel, in particular, was positionally poor.
The Belgian, though, was asked to provide drive in the midfield and to be the creative spark in the centre. Chelsea didn't focus their play down the middle, though, so he wasn't the playmaker—no one was.
Hazard was nearly always available for the pass, drifting from side to side and even as far back as his central defensive line to receive the ball. This extreme freedom and roaming are reminiscent of Wesley Sneijder's role in the Euro 2012 Netherlands team.
Exclusively attacking intent
It was evident that Di Matteo bestowed little or no defensive responsibilities on his attacking midfielder.
In fact, you were more likely to see Lukaku drop further back than Hazard. Should the striker drift from side to side or into a deeper position, his Belgian counterpart would immediately fill the hole left in the front line.
Hazard is not averse to this, as he played something approaching a false-nine position in Belgium's recent loss to England.
Furthermore, when Chelsea were stretched and Seattle counterattacked, the Blues defended with six: four defenders in a flat line and two holding midfielders as shields. The front four took no part in tracking back for the most part.
There were a couple of moments during the game which highlighted Hazard's immense strengths and dangerous aura.
Three times, he rinsed a player with ease, barely having to turn the afterburners on to skip past his man. These moments were excellent examples of how a perfect first touch and good body movement can do 75 percent of the work in a one-on-one situation.
His low centre of gravity is evident too, as the Sounders players were unable to pull him down from either a standing position or in motion.
Preseason friendlies are preseason friendlies—don't take too much from them, but don't take too little either.
Hazard never hit second gear, but there were several moments throughout the course of his 53-minute cameo that should make Chelsea fans excited.
Had his deep midfield duo been anything close to competent during this game, Hazard would likely have taken a significant hand in the proceedings.
Unfortunately, he does play in a role where he can get isolated. Again, we reiterate the friendly nature of this particular run-out.
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