The Case for Eden Hazard

H17 2017-10-02 Others

Having not started any of the first 6 Gameweeks due to injury, Hazard has been at the periphery of our thoughts so far. Is it time we start transferring him in?
There is certainly a case to be made for drafting Hazard into our 5 man midfield, now that he is back, fit and starting. The Belgian is indeed a player of proven Fantasy calibre, having scored 224 points last season - only second to Alexis Sanchez amongst all players. In 14/15, he scored 233 points as he finished as the top points scorer in Fantasy Premier League as well as the PFA Player of the Year.

Eden Hazard 2.0?
Still only in 3.2% of all teams, he could be the ultimate differential for our teams. Even though he was somewhat shackled by Antonio Conte's surprisingly insipid set-up against Man City, expect the shackles to come off against weaker sides. Hazard showed his sumptuous best at Atletico Madrid this mid-week, taking the Man of the Match award in his first start for Chelsea in 4 months. His creative juices were flowing as well as they could, as he created 7 chances, and also took 4 shots, assisting Alvaro Morata's equalizer at the stroke of the hour mark. His performance was especially impressive, considering it came against Atletico at their own patch - one of the best defensive sides in Europe.
This season, it seems as if it could be a reboot for Hazard, as he reinvents his role in the Chelsea side. As opposed to last season, where he was placed out wide around a proper target man in Diego Costa, this season, Chelsea have Morata, a player who relies more on his intelligent runs and link up plays. This has brought about change for Hazard too. Both against Atletico and Man City (till Morata got injured), he was stationed up front along with Alvaro Morata in a 3-5-2. Against Atletico, it brought the best out of both, as they indulged in some delightful link-up play up top. A central role should bring about an increase in goal/assist output for Hazard, as he will now be more involved in the build-up. Even though it's not much data to go about from, the two games Hazard played as a striker last season - he scored 1 and assisted 1, returning in both games. This seems promising for Hazard's future prospects.

A Time for Change in Midfield?
Going into the international break, many managers have a reason to look elsewhere in their midfields. Dele Alli's (£9.5m) over 1.5 million owners (28.7%) will certainly be looking elsewhere. With 28,000 transfer outs since yesterday, there is already a fire sale on for him. The midfielder has now fired blanks in three of his last four games, scoring only 16 points, and scoring no goals in that spell, despite straightforward fixtures. His lack of bonus points have also come to the focus. As an icing on the cake, he picked up a yellow card against Huddersfield for diving, and was publically slammed by manager Mauricio Pochettino for the same. Can you really rely on a man currently serving bans in European and International competitions to cut out the shenanigans?
Alli is the third most owned midfielder. Owners of the first two, Mohamed Salah (£9.2m/35.4%) and especially of Henrikh Mkhitaryan (£8.5m/33.6%) may also be looking for a way out. Mkhitaryan has also produced only once in the last 4 games, after 5 assists in his first 3 games. He has started to become more anonymous of late, and is still yet to finish 90 minutes in any of the first 7 games. With Man Utd having remarkable strength in depth but a congested schedule, his minutes could be managed further. To make matters worse, United's schedule is only getting tougher - they face Liverpool, Spurs and Chelsea in the next four.
Although Salah's form is not in question, having scored in both of his last two - there is reason to believe it could be. Liverpool face the two best defenses in the league in their next two, in Man Utd and Spurs. In the agreeable fixtures that follow, Salah's game time could be restricted. Liverpool's fixture schedule is also congested. Jurgen Klopp has shown a penchant for extreme rotation around Champions League games, in this case, benching Salah before a qualifier against Palace, and hooking him off at half time against City with an eye towards the Sevilla clash. Unlike Chelsea, who have 6 points out of 6 (thereby making the PL their focus now), Liverpool's Champions League campaign is at a crossroads, with only 2 points in 2 games in what looked to be an easy group. Salah may have served owners well so far, but could it be coming to an end?
Disgruntled owners of Alli, Salah and Mkhitaryan - enter Hazard.

Final Thoughts
The main appeal around Hazard is Chelsea's easy fixture list in the medium term. Their next 5 fixtures read CRY (A), WAT (H), BOU (A), MUN (H), WBA (A) - only one side capable of posing problems to Chelsea. This is followed by LIV (A), SWA (H), NEW (H), WHU (A) and HUD (A) - another 4 fixtures against lower half sides, with 2 plum home fixtures. Many have considered Alvaro Morata (whose injury is expected to be minor) as their route into the Chelsea attack for this run, but at only £0.1m extra, Hazard could be a worthy alternative for a differential.

His appeal is further enhanced as he gets an extra point per goal and a point per clean sheet over Morata. As we've learnt in past seasons, is so good with the bonus points that he can even bag all 3 bonus with just an assist. As what could be a clincher, he also has penalty duties in his locker, which gives him the opportunity to conjure up double digit hauls in off games, as he so often has done in the past.

In Fantasy Premier League, the difference between an outstanding rank and a decent rank is jumping on a bandwagon before it takes off. This season, those who have owned Ben Davies since Gameweek 1, or those who owned Sergio Aguero since before Gameweek 4 will testify. With the fixtures conducive, it may be the right time to kick start the Hazard bandwagon, before it leaves the station.

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