Juan Mata vs. Eden Hazard: Revealing Stats to Separate the Chelsea Pair
For Chelsea, they take up two of the three attacking berths behind a lone striker and are integral aspects of their side's approach, especially in the final third.
Aside from occupying similar roles and coincidentally standing at exactly 170 centimetres tall, it's interesting to note just how alike much of their Premier League production has been this season.
Having spent a similar amount of minutes on the pitch, both players have unleashed exactly 60 shots, with Mata scoring 10 goals to Hazard's nine. Each of them passes at 85 percent accuracy and have amazingly managed an almost identical haul of passes in the final third—with Hazard making 831 to Mata's 828.
Away from attack, they have been dribbled past the same amount of times (24), while their tackling and dispossession numbers are also bizarrely close.
Therefore, in an effort to separate them for those not entirely in tune with the impressive Chelsea duo, here's a statistical look at where they do differ on the pitch—only considering their Premier League input.
Mata's Preference to Pass
Of the two players, Mata is certainly the keener passer, averaging 53.3 passes per appearance to Hazard's 44.6, and is in fact the most metronomic of any of Chelsea's players with the ball at his feet.
While that doesn't seem a great amount more on paper, seven more passes per game is actually quite significant in terms of a team's identity. Looking at the Premier League's most prolific passers, they are separated by almost 40 players—with Mata 18th and Hazard down in 55th.
As Chelsea's leading passer, most attacks have Mata's influence imprinted on them somewhere along the line, with the Spaniard highly skilled at moving players around before expertly dissecting a defence.
Hazard's Preference to Dribble
While Mata enjoys spreading the play and being more involved in his side's rhythm and tempo, Hazard's general inclination is to be the more direct of the two and take on defenders.
In all, he has 58 successful dribbles from 123 attempts this season, compared to Mata's 21 from 49 attempts, showing a clear distinction between the players.
In fact, Hazard is one of the best running threats in the Premier League, with only four players able to boast more successful dribbles than the Belgian's 58 so far.
Once he's beaten an opponent, he will generally look for a cut-back in the penalty area or an opportunity to get a shot on goal.
When Mata hits the byline, instead of attacking his opposite man in the style of Hazard, his more favoured technique is to send in a cross.
This season the Spaniard's delivered 185 crosses to his teammate's 105, and at a higher accuracy of 20 percent to the Belgian's 16 percent.
Clearly Hazard crosses too, but only half as much. These opposing traits complement each other perfectly in the final third, and—with both players interchanging around—it keeps opponents guessing while providing Chelsea with an ideal balance in two key positions.
Hazard's Free-Kick Production
Due to Hazard's urge to dribble at defenders, he also earns his side a substantial amount of free-kicks, which is an especially handy trait to bring.
The Belgian's direct running, fast feet and instinctive skill have caused him to be one of the most fouled players in the league—with nervous defenders opting to scythe him down instead of risking humiliation.
In total, he has been brought down 73 times, again a total only four top flight players can surpass, whereas Mata's urge to pass first has seen him felled just 29 times.
Mata the More Creative
Finally, while both players have had hugely impressive individual campaigns, Mata's overall play has been marginally more productive, underlined by his far higher involvement in the creative stakes.
Fashioning out 83 chances, he is the Premier League's sixth-most-potent creator, constructing 23 more opportunities than Hazard.
He has certainly benefited from more set-piece opportunities to deliver from, but it's still his delivery that's been the one more often finding the striker.
In conclusion, Hazard is the more explosive option, able to suddenly penetrate a side with a flash of brilliance; a player all manager's crave to possess.
Mata is more of an overall heartbeat for his side. An artist who can be built around stylistically and would have perhaps prospered more this season with some better movement in front of him.
Both are exception talents who bring Chelsea very different options in the final third, despite many statistical similarities.