Every few months, I’ll reflect on how much I miss being able to see Chelsea’s Eden Hazard play.
Supporters should have very few regrets. Hazard’s seven-year tenure at Stamford Bridge saw him develop from a promising young prospect into one of Europe’s most dangerous strikers. He was one of a kind, and some consider him to be the finest signing of the Roman Abramovich period, which ended lately.
On Wednesday evening, fans were treated to some typical Hazardry as the 31-year-old looked in fine form for his country’s UEFA Nations League victory against Poland.
The fact that Hazard appears to be overcoming his post-Chelsea injury problems should not lead to calls for his return, but rather serve as a reminder of what Chelsea has missing since he was transferred to Real Madrid in the summer of 2019.
Hazard had that spark, brilliance, and unpredictability whenever he picked up the ball and decided to go on one of his crazy runs. The absence of innovation in Chelsea’s offensive style since Hazard’s departure has been a persistent criticism, as has the lack of a maverick who will take responsibility and do risky things on their own.
Thomas Tuchel’s system has improved the Blues’ defensive structure, but it has been accused of putting the brakes on their ability to be spontaneous in the final third, something Hazard, for all his perfection, is known for.
That is why, in regard to Todd Boehly’s wish to make a statement signing this summer, Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembele may give the trickery and delight that was missing. At his best, the French winger is technically talented, two-footed, and has shown to be a player capable of changing the course of a game in a matter of seconds.
Chelsea’s current possession approach is organized, with the wing-backs providing width and creating overloads against compact defenses. But, if Plan A fails, Tuchel lacks a competent player who can make a difference on his own, disrupt a defensive structure, and take numerous players out of a game in a matter of seconds.
Despite only making 21 La Liga appearances in the whole 2021/22 season, Dembele has shown to be a very productive player for Barcelona after recovering fitness in January, constantly producing high-quality opportunities and dominating creative numbers from Europe’s top five clubs.
Dembele might provide a spark that was sorely absent for extended stretches last season, when Chelsea’s attack seemed to be running out of ideas. Particularly at Stamford Bridge, where opponents are more cautious and tight, the Blues have recorded their poorest home point return in the Premier League since 2015/16.
Dembele, with his past close relationship with Tuchel and Chelsea’s dire need for some disruption and inventiveness from an underperforming attack next season, may resurrect the magic. Hazard