Chelsea’s Eden Hazard scored a hat-trick at the weekend, in a 4-1 win over newly promoted Cardiff. It was his fifth goal in as many games so far this season, and his manager Maurizio Sarri believes he can keep up this impressive form and score as many as 40 goals this season. To examine this claim let’s consider another tricky winger who managed that goal-scoring feat last year.
Mo Salah had a glittering season last time around, netting 44 goals in all competitions. Hazard has never scored more than 20 (apart from 7 years ago when he played for Lille in the French league), but neither had Salah. The Egyptian’s uptake in fortunes can be put down to a perfect storm – he had moved to a new league, with a new team and new manager who were all suited to his talents and, later, built specifically to profit him.
Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool were undoubtedly the ideal team for him to sign for. He hasn’t hit the heights of last year yet this season, but he has still shown immense flashes of the skill and trickery which won him the Premier League Golden Boot.
Likewise, in Sarri and the style of play he orchestrates, Hazard has finally been given a winning combination. Previous managers like Antonio Conte and especially Jose Mourinho stifled the Belgian at times, forcing him to track back when he didn’t want to and demanding defensive tactics that didn’t allow him to show off his full set of talents.
Anyone who watched Sarri’s Napoli side over the past few years could have told you that Hazard would have fit in perfectly. Rapid, attacking football was the order of the day as the Partenopei came oh so close to dethroning the perennial champions of Serie A, Juventus.
Since Roberto Martinez, who some would say is perhaps too attacking, has been manager of the Belgian national side, Hazard has netted 13 times in 21 appearances, a huge improvement on his goals-per-game under previous managers. If he can display – and maintain – a similar boost to his returns for an attack-minded Chelsea then maybe Sarri’s prediction will come true.