Chelsea might be ending this season on a low note, but they have a lot to hope for next year. The scoreless draw with Norwich City on Sunday was the perfect example of just what went wrong for Chelsea this season; in particular, it showcased their lack of offensive creativity against defensive teams, especially without Eden Hazard.
Despite this—and the accompanying lack of silverware—however, Chelsea have had a fairly good season. With the surely inevitable addition of a quality striker this summer, Chelsea will be a force to be reckoned with in all competitions next year.
However, if the Blues are to succeed next season, there is one key factor that could make or break their campaign.
Recent comments from Hazard sparked a well-publicized response from Jose Mourinho, who criticized the midfielder's defensive work ethic, saying that he is "not the kind of player ready to sacrifice himself 100 per cent for the team" (via The Telegraph).
These comments naturally sparked a slew of articles questioning how long Hazard would remain at Stamford Bridge, and just how happy the two men were to work together.
This all seems like a slight overreaction, considering that Mourinho's comments were quite mild and mostly justified. Defensive strength and selfless hard work is at the core of every successful team. However, if it is something deeper than just a few off-the-cuff comments, it should be a big concern for every Chelsea fan.
If Chelsea are going to win the Premier League next year, the relationship between Hazard and Mourinho is crucial.
For proof of this, one only has to look at the difference between this season and last. While Chelsea did win the Europa League last year, their more recent performances in the Champions League and Premier League have definitely eclipsed that achievement, and the team has shown a marked improvement on last season.
Eden Hazard has been the difference throughout this season, putting on a set of stellar performances that earned him the PFA Young Player of the Year award, as well as a place on the shortlist for the main prize.
However, Hazard alone could not have been enough to help Chelsea challenge (albeit unsuccessfully) for both the Premier League and Champions League titles. Anyone can see the impact that the return of Jose Mourinho has had on this Chelsea team.
Mourinho has managed to create something that could be the start of a very exciting new era for Chelsea and done so with almost identical resources and personnel as those of last season. When you add a few summer signings to the mix, it is exciting to think about what Chelsea will be able to do next year.
Hazard will once again be the heartbeat of the team, and with the addition of a new striker, the Blues will have an offensive force to match their already rock-solid defence. It is for this reason that Jose Mourinho and Eden Hazard need to be able to work together.
If Hazard lets him, Mourinho will help the Belgian to hone his skills in the best way, and in turn win a plethora of trophies with the club. While egos sometimes get in the way in this sport, both men need to set them aside and work together; the trophies will follow, and when they do, all of this chat is sure to be forgotten.