Eden Hazard came with high expectations.
Arriving at Stamford Bridge for the cool sum of £32 million from French side Lille, many expected the then-21-year-old to continue where he left off in Ligue 1—rinsing defences left, right and centre.
Such was the fervor surrounding his transfer, there was even dedicated analysis of his preseason debut against the Seattle Sounders.
The opening day of the new 2012-13 English Premier League season saw the Belgian tear Wigan Athletic apart, providing a pair of assists in an impressive performance. He promptly tempered expectations.
At 21 years of age, the Belgian was given pardon for dips in form, but if there's one thing Rafa Benitez really has done for the Blues, it's unlock a consistently potent wide player.
Hazard came to Chelsea as a star player who had roamed around in whichever way he fancied at Lille, but expressed his desire to play as a No. 10 on his arrival in London.
Opportunities as a No. 10 have been limited, and his dynamic skill set is probably best served in the hole behind the striker. That said, Chelsea face a selection dilemma each and every week, and playing Juan Mata there is the lesser of two evils.
Both are immense players, and of the two, Hazard's speed, quickness and directness is better suited to the wide areas.
That's where he's played the majority of the season—specifically on the left, opposite Oscar—and he has grown into life in the EPL. We've seen the Belgian cut inside and score from outside the area frequently, while a lack of form in the striking department has seen him double his efforts to penetrate the box.
@stighefootball he's given enough freedom to do what he wants so yes. And yes, great start, quiet middle, strong end will do me for 1st year— John Baines (@bainesyDiego10) April 3, 2013
But are Chelsea unlocking the best in Hazard?
Aside from the No. 10 issue, does the formation suit the Belgian? How would you ideally plan for next season?
Roberto Di Matteo played Hazard as a false-nine in Turin as a final act of defiance to owner Roman Abramovich, and it certainly got the cogs turning: Could Chelsea pull it off as an alternate formation?
It would take a summer of training, and Romelu Lukaku is expected to re-enter the fold. Blues fans will be calling for the "other" Belgian to start on the opening day such is the level of consistency he's showing for West Brom.
B/R columnist John Baines, among others, believe a 4-3-3 is the way to go. Would that entail Hazard as a false-nine or as a wide option?
Rowanne Westhenry fancies a Carlo Ancelotti-esque Christmas tree formation, with Lukaku supported by two No. 10s in Mata and Hazard.
Chelsea fans, let's hear your ideal formation and player roles for next season and help settle the debate!