Chelsea vs. Reading: 4 Reasons Eden Hazard Will Again Be the Man to Watch
Wigan Athletic away on the opening day of the Premier League season is not what you'd call an easy start to your campaign, even if you're the reigning champions of Europe.
The Lancashire-based outfit looked destined for relegation at the onset of February this year. They were rock-bottom in the table, and had arguably the hardest of run-ins.
But they ended their 2011-12 season in emphatic style, beating nearly all the heavyweights en route to a laudable 15th-place finish. In other words, they're no pushovers.
Now, this is not what I set out to discuss. So let me not digress from the point.
Eden Hazard put in an eye-catching performance on his league debut for Chelsea against this very opposition on Sunday. The architect of both goals for the Blues on Sunday, Hazard will have no room for complacency when newly-promoted Reading visit Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night.
He was the star performer against Wigan, and all eyes will be on the diminutive Belgian as he attempts to weave his magic again. Here are the four reasons Hazard will be the man to watch when the Royals come to town.
The Blitzkrieg of the First Seven Minutes
After catching early glimpses of the Wigan-Chelsea clash on Sunday at the DW Stadium, I had just two words for Eden Hazard: simply scintillating.
He had ripped apart the Latics' defense in just seven minutes. A mere seven minutes. It was like a hot knife through butter.
Agreed, the ex-Lille maestro was a bit subdued through the rest of the game. It is important to be a persistent threat in big games, but here the damage was done.
A learned man once said: Strike when the iron is hot.
He Produced Some Fascinating Statistics on His Premier League Debut
Hazard registered two assists in six minutes. But let's also take a look at the bigger picture.
A passing percentage of roughly 74 percent is reasonable for his position. However, as it turns out, he completed just 17 successful passes over the course of the game, of which a meager three were into the final third.
These statistics would suggest that Hazard didn't see enough of the ball. While I don't think he was exactly ball-starved, he'd have been able to conjure more if Chelsea had dominated possession.
As it turns out, 35 percent of the game was played in Chelsea's final third, and 47 percent of it in the middle of the pitch.
Things will be different on home turf against the visiting Royals, and I'd be interested to see what the enchanting duo Hazard and Mata can do with greater possession.
Chelsea, meanwhile, will have to improve on just six attempts at goal.
The Supposed Areas of Weakness
It was easy to notice that despite his early assault on the opposition defense, Hazard went missing for large parts of the remainder of the game.
When he did get the ball in midfield, he tried to do too much by himself. Agreed, the man is adept at taking on defenders, but he should know when to pass the ball too. I'd be looking out for an improvement here. Game sense is crucial.
Hazard isn't renowned for his defensive contribution, but I was surprised to see him drop and help out at the back when Wigan were in possession. Roberto Di Matteo will certainly love it if this trend continues.
I also thought Chelsea's new No. 17 dealt really well with the physicality of the opponent midfielders, especially considering the Wigan players were incessantly fouling him.
The media will have their eyes fixated on the lad, looking out for reasons, good or bad, to write about him.
Hazard's Playing Style
There's no better a reason to watch a skillful footballer than to relish his playing style. Hazard's lateral movement is a delight to behold.
He combined brilliantly with fan favorite Juan Mata, and they have already forged an understanding of sorts. They swapped positions regularly, leaving the Wigan midfield to bite the dust.
He has drawn comparisons with both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in the past, but I feel Hazard shares a greater similarity with the former. Sheer observation has led me to believe that the Belgian likes to drop deep and then work his magic.
The way he orchestrated play for the first goal against Wigan is a testament to this claim. Hazard wriggled, twisted and turned past his marker at about the halfway line, and then set the onrushing beast Branislav Ivanovic through on goal, with a perfectly weighted pass.
Let's pray there's more to come from the wing wizard when Chelsea kick off at Stamford Bridge tomorrow.