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Eden Hazard Is Back To Being The Best Player In The Premier League

The 2015-16 Premier League season was dominated by two stories: the remarkable rise of Leicester City and the shambolic title defense of Chelsea. This season, the roles have been reversed. As a barometer of the contrasting performances, one needs to look no further than the play of wingers Eden Hazard and Riyad Mahrez.

After helping Leicester City survive their promotion season, Mahrez turned in performances that saw him land the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award and finish seventh in Ballon d’Or 2016 voting. In the space of a year, he managed to improve his goal tally by 13 and assists by eight.

Conversely, having been named the 2014-15 PFA Players’ Player of the Year and finishing eighth in Ballon d’Or 2015 voting, Hazard scored 10 less goals and registered six less assists last season. He didn’t finish in the top 20 for Ballon d’Or voting.

Now again, what an inconceivable difference a year makes. Leicester City’s title defense finds them in 16th, only one-point above the relegation zone. Mahrez’s struggles reflect those of the rest of the team: while he’s played well in the Champions League, he’s not even going to come close to matching last year’s numbers.


Is it the loss of N’Golo Kante in midfield, the player who so quickly won the ball back for Leicester without fail, shuttling it forward to Danny Drinkwater and triggering rapid attack of Mahrez and Jamie Vardy?

Is it because teams have adapted to the tactics of Claudio Ranieri while the defense, so outrageously anchored by the aging Robert Huth and Wes Morgan, has simply reverted to form? 

Or was it always going to be impossible to achieve anything this season — a Faustian achievement of remarkable success that could only be followed apathy?

It’s likely a combination of them all. For Chelsea and Eden Hazard, last year’s displays are even more unexplainable. Perhaps it had something to do with what Branislav Ivanovic told Sport Express: “If you want to play for Mourinho, you have to follow his demands…You can’t be indifferent to him. You either love him or hate him.”

And if you love him but lose his trust, you’re probably going to end up hating him. It’s a cycle that has seen Mourinho achieve remarkable success while getting the utmost out of individuals, only to flame out spectacularly over the course of 2-3 years.

The likes of Philippe Coutinho, Mesut Ozil, Kevin De Bruyne, Dele Alli, Dimitri Payet (now at Marseille) and Mahrez are all sensational players. But Hazard, now 26, has reclaimed his spot as the best attacking midfielder in the EPL.

Beginning with ending Tottenham’s title hopes last year, no player has been more decisive against the big clubs, including Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United.


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