Monday, April 29, 2013

An overblown Eden Hazard love-in

The start of Eden Hazard’s career with Chelsea might best be described as bimodal.

After a £32-million summer transfer from the 2011 French Champions Lille, Hazard began the season lauded as perhaps the best Belgian in a league full of ‘em.  But his form slumped around the time his club entered the mid-season depression that cost Champions League winning manager Roberto Di Matteo his position and recovered only in the early months of this year.

Yet when one takes a look at the nominees for the PFA Player of the Year award and now that same organisation’s Team of the Year sees him line up behind Robin van Persie.  He has been touted for a superlative season, but hasn’t produced at the same level we expected after his glistening start.

Both seem a bit rich.  Hazard is unquestionably an incredibly talented player, but has performed rather inconsistently in the English Premiership – he is capable of outstanding performances but has remained somewhat anonymous in other matches, perhaps a function of Chelsea’s attempt to shoehorn three pesky creative types into one outfit.  While statistics only tell half the story, Mata has indeed had the superior season.

Was his selection in the Team of the Year a product of a lack of alternative options?  Given his peers voted him one of the best six players in the country, that’s a long bow to draw – it’s clear that the Premier League rank and file deem him a player to be respected.  Nevertheless, he made the celebrated team at the expense of players of whom it could be easily argued had better seasons like Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla or Swansea City superbargain Michu. 

The love-in surrounding Hazard’s debut English season has begun and history will say that it was a fine one, replete with awards.  But that doesn’t do him justice – he could be one of the five greatest players in the world and that hasn’t been reflected in the totality of his performances this year.  This year, he has been very-good-but-not-great, perhaps only displaying eighty percent of his formidable skill.  But does a player who only engages (even) a fraction of his ability truly deserve a position in such an esteemed team?

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