Eden Hazard has consistently been one of the Premier League's best players since he joined from Lille in 2012, but he has seemingly found another level following Maurizio Sarri's appointment.
Hazard's start to the 2018-19 season has been truly exceptional, with the Belgium international scoring seven times in eight Premier League games ahead of the visit of Manchester United and former coach Jose Mourinho this weekend.
Sarri's appointment as coach was always highlighted as a potential boost to Chelsea's attackers following more the more pragmatic approaches of Antonio Conte and Mourinho.
It was under the latter that Hazard enjoyed two of his best seasons at Chelsea, but Sarri seems to have transformed him into a player capable of challenging for the Ballon d'Or.
As Chelsea prepare to host Mourinho's United, we look at the Opta data which shows Hazard is performing even better than he did in his days working under the 'Special One'.
More shots, more goals
The most obvious element of change in Hazard's play under Sarri has been his increased shooting frequency. During his time under Mourinho's watch, he averaged 2.1 shots per 90 minutes, but this season that figure is significantly higher at 3.6.
There has also been an impact on his accuracy as he has found the target with 1.6 shots every match. His best record in any one season with Mourinho was 1.0 in 2013-14. Perhaps the only surprise this term is his 4.8 per cent conversion rate, well below the 16.2 per cent he posted with Mourinho in charge, but a decrease is to be expected considering how much more he is trying his luck.
Keeping things ticking
Hazard's increased threat around goal has not impacted negatively on his creative responsibilities as he has again proved more effective than he ever did with Mourinho, averaging 0.5 assists every game - 0.3 more than his spell with the Portuguese coach.
He is also enjoying increased effectiveness in possession, attempting 72.5 passes per match. The most he ever averaged in a season with Mourinho was 59.2, highlighting the fact he is far more involved in Chelsea's general build-up play.
Hazard was always a prominent figure under Mourinho and his 2014-15 campaign was arguably his best in a Chelsea shirt. That season he was particularly good on the ball, attempting 7.9 dribbles per match and completing 4.8 of them.
His figures this term (3.4 and 7.2, respectively) are not as impressive, but it can be argued he is showing maturity by looking for alternative options. After all, Hazard has had an average of 100.1 touches of the ball per match under Sarri – his best such record with Mourinho as his coach was 82.7.
It is a common misconception of Mourinho's teams that he expects players to do a lot of running, particularly the full-backs and wingers. But as it turns out, Hazard is running further on average with Sarri, having covered 10.4 kilometres per match this term, as opposed to the 10.3km he ran every 90 minutes for Conte's predecessor.
21 de mayo 2019
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