Recently, Eden Hazard was named player of the year for Chelsea, fighting off competition from the likes of John Terry and Gary Cahill for the accolade. With 17 goals in all competitions this season, the Belgian has been an integral part of Chelsea’s season. José Mourinho praised Hazard for his fine form, but was not shy about mentioning that Hazard needed to work a lot harder next season at defending. For all his usual riddles and smokescreens, this was a fairly straightforward warning to Hazard by Mourinho: you’re good, but not irreplaceable. So how do Chelsea go about solving Hazard’s so called defensive weaknesses?
In only his first season back in charge, Mourinho guided Chelsea to both the Champion’s League semi–final and within five points of the Barclays Premier League title, beating Manchester City and Liverpool home and away in the process. Pointing out flaws in the side is a bit difficult, not to mind critical.
Chelsea managed to have the best defensive record in the league and the back four of Ivanovic, Terry, Cahill and Azpilicueta conceded only 27 goals all season in the league, making them absolutely brilliant players to have on a Fantasy Football team!
In Europe though, Chelsea weren’t so convincing and despite drawing 0-0 with Atletico Madrid in Madrid, Chelsea lost out 3-1 at Stamford Bridge, ending their Champions League hopes in the process. Hazard received a lot of criticism for that game in particular and was found to be at fault for the first two goals for not picking up his man and allowing Filipe Luis and Diego Costa to score for Atletico.
Without a doubt, the goals were caused by poor marking by Hazard and Mourinho has made no secret of the fact that his game plan consists of players such as Hazard, Schurrle and Willian tracking back and working hard in defence. In fact, Mourinho actually shunned Juan Mata before selling him to Manchester United because he said Mata’s inability to track back didn ot suit his style of play.
Seeing as Mata was named Player of the Year in the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013, Hazard should probably heed Mourinho’s advice if he wants to remain a Chelsea player.
So what is the solution to this weakness in defence for Chelsea? Surely Hazard shouldn’t be overburdened by his defensive duties – he is a winger and Chelsea’s top scorer and getting goals should be his priority. Even if Hazard does become better at tracking back and helping out in defence, then surely this would mean a decrease in the number of goals scored.
Clearly, Chelsea are too reliant on Hazard and there is a lack of other goalscorers in the side. Fernando Torres may have scored in the second leg tie against his former club Atletico, but his return of 11 goals all season and Samuel Eto’o’s tally of 9 all season are not as good a return as you would expect from those players. Neither striker appears to be up to the mark and although Demba Ba has scored a few important goals (8) this season too, like his winner against PSG in the Champions League quarter-final, they just collectively have not scored enough for Chelsea this season.
If Mourinho truly wants Hazard to do more in defence, then surely he needs to address the side’s urgent need of a striker to help take the scoring burden off of Hazard, allowing him to focus more on his defensive duties.
The question then is who Chelsea should sign to fill this role and with €63 million burning a hole in his pocket since selling David Luiz to PSG in the bargain of the century, Mourinho should have no problems landing a player to fill the role.
Eto’o may already be on the way out of Stamford Bridge and Demba Ba and Fernando Torres probably cannot be far behind him.
Due to his impressive last two seasons on loan at West Brom and Everton , Romelu Lukaku really seems to be like a young Didier Drogba; he’s strong as an ox, quick, good in the air and is a great finisher. Mourinho could do a lot worse than to hang onto Lukaku and with 15 goals for Everton all season, Lukaku really has got the experience that he was sent out on loan for under his belt and would be well worth giving a proper chance to this season.
If Lukaku decides not to stay at Chelsea again this season, they will need to add more depth to their attacking options. Atletico Madrid may have beaten Chelsea en route to the Champions League Final, but a big enough cheque from Roman Abramovich would certainly turn heads at Atletico Madrid for Diego Costa, a player they bought for €2 million in the summer.
Costa has now won the La Liga title with Atletico and after coming within 2 minutes of winning the Champions League as well, he may decide to head to a bigger club. Costa is a very good finisher and his strength allows him to hold up the ball well, which would allow him to link up with Hazard and Willian going forward.
Chelsea have former Atletico hero and local boy Fernando Torres on their books, and judging from his refusal to celebrate scoring against his old club in the Champions League Semi-Final at Stamford Bridge, Torres still has a lot of love for his boyhood club. A cash plus player swap deal for the two would appear beneficial for both.
If Mourinho really wants to see the best of Hazard this season, then the best way to do that is to acquire a quality striker so that Hazard will not be expected to score as many goals for Chelsea. Lukaku would fit in nicely, but expect a big name arrival at Stamford Bridge after the World Cup, most likely Diego Costa.
Eoghan Lordan, Pundit Arena.
Featured Image By Ben Sutherland [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.