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Continued Consistency Can Make Chelsea's Eden Hazard an Elite Outlet

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 04: Eden Hazard of Chelsea in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Chelsea at the Stadium of Light on December 4, 2013 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Paul Thomas/Getty Images)
Paul Thomas/Getty Images
Sam TigheWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterDecember 7, 2013

We've been here before.

Chelsea didn't play superbly on Saturday, and their defending—at times—was downright atrocious, but one certifiable bright spot arrived in the form of Eden Hazard's performance.

The Belgian stole the show for the Blues in the absence of Oscar, excelling from his position on the flanks of Jose Mourinho's 4-2-3-1 formation.

Juan Mata put together a superb game in terms of reliability in possession and pass completion percentage, Ramires was promising—if profligate—when surging forward from deep positions, but Hazard was a constant thorn in Mark Hughes' side.

But hold your horses, steady your praise: Hazard peaked last season and dropped off dramatically, and his tender age stopped him from putting together what many would consider the "perfect" season.

Against Sunderland in midweek, he was incredible, unplayable; Gus Poyet stuck two men on him to no avail; he twisted and turned his way into the box to score two goals and rule the left flank.

At the Britannia Stadium, he didn't trouble the scoresheet, but he was far and away the best player on the pitch, completing an astonishing 13 dribbles as he left Stoke players trailing in his wake, as outlined by WhoScored.com.

STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 07:  Goalscorer Andre Schuerrle of Chelsea celebrates with teammate Eden Hazard after scoring his team's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Chelsea at Britannia Stadium on Decembe
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Having arrived for £32 million, it was clear from the start, he was a world-class player in the making. His start to 2012-13 season in a Chelsea shirt was incredible—he single-handedly destroyed Wigan Athletic, among others, on the way to sending Roberto Di Matteo's charges to the top of the table—but a severe drop-off in form had people questioning his ability.

That's not fair, and it's still not a given. He's just 22, but great reputation brings great expectation.

He's already made huge strides in terms of his positional sense, and looking at his performances now, you'd be hard-pressed to believe he is a former No. 10 in the mould of Mata himself.

Hazard's athleticism, ability to beat players on the ground and incredible flat-line speed made him a lock to find a permanent home on the flanks, and Mourinho will be looking at his Belgian starlet and believing he has a Cristiano Ronaldo-esque presence in the ranks.

The former Lille man has had a strong start to the season and a particularly superb December thus far, and if he continues in this vein, he's on course for a landmark season.

Hold your horses, we've seen this before, but should Hazard avoid the drop-off this season, he'll be well on his way to making his claim as an elite wide forward and game-changer.

An outlet Chelsea seriously need.

 

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