For the last couple of seasons, Eden Hazard has been Chelsea’s heartbeat, as his form has been the biggest reason for their success. His ability to score goals, create chances, dribble past players and force fouls in dangerous positions have made him one of the best (and in my mind THE best) player in the Premier League. Sadly for the blues, the Belgian just left for Real Madrid, leaving Chelsea, who currently have a transfer ban and are trying to prepare for a return to the Champions League, in a bit of a conundrum.
But let’s see how big of a hole Hazard’s departure actually creates. Below are his stats for the 2018-2019 Premier League season (whoscored.com). They are compared to a mystery player’s stats. Can you guess who that player is?
Pretty decent mystery player isn’t it? Chelsea will be fine if they have this guy on their roster. Only problem? This mystery player is not actually a player, but rather the entire cast of wingers Chelsea had this season (Pedro, Willian and Hudson-Odoi). Even combined, and with way more minutes, the trio could not match what Hazard did in the Premier League!
Thankfully, Pulisic is on his way from Dortmund and the hope is that he can fill (at least partly) the big void the little Belgian left. Below are the league stats (Premier League or Bundesliga) from last season for every winger Chelsea will have for the next season, assuming that their transfer ban is not overturned.
Even with Pulisic in the mix, Hazard still contributed more to the offense than those four wingers together, as he had the same number of goals and successful dribbles, along with 3 more assists and 15 more fouls suffered.
Chelsea’s two main wingers, Pedro and Willian, have shown they can play in the Premier League. However, they are both now in their thirties (Pedro will be 32 and Willian 31 when the next season begins) and the inevitable decline might be close. The hope for the blues is that Hudson-Odoi and Pulisic, both two very young promising players (18 and 20 respectively) can grow into much bigger contributors. Hudson-Odoi did show a lot of potential in his limited opportunities, as he got 4 goals and 2 assists in 9 Europa League appearances, which is something any 18 year old kid should be proud of. However, the step to the Premier League is a steep one that many youngsters fail to make every year. Meanwhile, Pulisic has struggled with injuries recently and he is yet to show he can deliver for a full season, especially in the more competitive Premier League.
Offensive help could also come from returning loanees like Tammy Abraham and Victor Moses. While he is not a winger, Abraham had quite a season with Aston Villa, scoring 26 league goals in the Championship, and he could allow Chelsea to change formation and play with two strikers upfront.
What is certain is that not one player on his own will be able to replace Hazard. There is a reason why Madrid paid north of $100M for his services (TSN.ca). It will take a team effort and tactical adjustments to make his departure a bit less painful. It will be interesting to see how Chelsea react and if they can make the Top 4 again next season!