In a 1-0 win over Manchester City on Monday night in their crucial Premier League tie, there are a number of reasons to highlight and point out as a reason why Chelsea pulled even against their Monday night foes for second in the league standings with 53 points, two behind Arsenal. Some will highlight the tactical matchup won by Jose Mourinho, the ability of Chelsea to overcome a nervy opening 25 minutes to take control of the game or Petr Cech making some big saves to preserve a win.
When I think back and analyze the game, it was the play of one Eden Hazard that stands out as encapsulating how it was that Chelsea were able to beat Manchester City on Monday night. It was a man-of-the-match performance on the part of Eden Hazard which showed how he has matured as a player so far this season under the tutelage of Mourinho after the Portuguese manager called Hazard a kid.
Earlier in the season, Hazard was recognized as one of the most talented attacking midfielders in the world, much less in the Premier League, but at the same time has been one of the most inconsistent players as he has gone large stretches of certain games where he looks disengaged in attack. On Monday night against Manchester City, Hazard was a very engaged player, and each time he was asked to do something with the ball, he provided to be a threat to score or create a scoring chance and took advantage of Martin Demichelis playing out of position as a defensive midfielder.
The fact that Hazard became the first passing outlet option on all Chelsea counter-attacks showed how engaged he was in attack throughout the game. Another criticism or issue that was lobbied at Hazard by Mourinho was the unwillingness of Hazard to track back and be willing to work hard defensively in order to then be able to do his greatest damage on attack. Monday night against Manchester City, Hazard put in great defensive work, which along with the defensive work put in by his teammates saw Manchester City look ever increasingly disjointed in attack.
Earlier key league road games against Manchester United and Arsenal saw Chelsea criticized for “parking the bus” and lacking any attacking presence to win those games. Against City on Monday night, we saw a Chelsea team much more dynamic in attack while still putting in good, solid work defensively — and the player who most exemplified this was Eden Hazard, who can be said to have graduated in the eyes of his manager.