Hazard over Alli
I think it was in the 2014 Champions League semifinal, when Chelsea lost out to Atletico Madrid and then Manager Jose Mourinho so publicly criticised Eden Hazard for failing to chase back Diego Gordin in the lead-up to one of the goals that knocked out Chelsea, that I worried for the Belgian.
I felt that the relationship between these two would not last because of the defensive responsibility upon the creative genius. I thought it absolutely ridiculous that a player of such wonderful attacking gifts was given responsibilities to chase a full back into his own half. I still do.
Football is about entertainment and in Hazard, the Premier League has its prime entertainer. It is not by accident that each time Chelsea are on the verge of great things in the league, the Belgian is their driving force.
Last season he was a pale shadow of the twinkle-toed magician that had taken Chelsea to the title and won the best player in the country awards. A lot has been said about the formation that Antonio Conte has been playing at Chelsea but that formation will probably have floundered but for the abilities of David Luis – as the spare centre back – and Hazard shorn of any defensive responsibilities. He goes here, there and everywhere dragging defenders and defences out of shape.
At the weekend, Hazard’s first touch to kill the long raking pass from N’Golo Kante was just sublime. The run and confidence to eventually sit Artur Boruc on his pants before sliding in his 14th goal of the season showed a man at peace at his work place. In every big game this season he has shown up and has been very decisive. There are folks who swear by stats, I am unashamedly not one of them but even when it comes to numbers Hazard is very impressive with his 14 goals already and five assists.
Across town in the white and blue side of North London Dele Alli of Tottenham has also shown to be of immense value to his team. Somewhere over the weekend, multiple title winner with Manchester United, Philip Neville said that Spurs “are the best-coached side in the league” and I tend to agree with him. By this time next season I expect Man City under Pep Guardiola to shake that up – the signs are already there I feel. In Alli and Harry Kane Spurs have two of England’s finest young players that have driven them into second spot in the league.
At the weekend, Alli scored a sumptuous goal. When he got the ball from Son I did not even think there was much danger for Watford. How he managed to generate so much power behind that strike with the bend and dip to beat Hurelio Gomes all ends up had me and most speechless. It was his 16th league goal of the season. Alli, plays in a role for Spurs that allows him to get into goal-scoring positions and it is to his great credit that he has scored so many.
He is a powerful lad, very athletic and has a football brain beyond his years. However, at Spurs he is not the creative hub of the team. Moussa Dembele and Christian Eriksen are the players charged with the creative responsibilities for the side. Having watched Dele (as he prefers to be called) closely I see him in the nicest possible way as the hammer of Thor. He is an instrument that can be used to bludgeon opponents and I genuinely feel that Manager Mauricio Pocchetino has just asked him to be so. The player and the club are reaping the rewards.
After the weekend I read and heard many comparisons of both Hazard and Dele, as usually happens when two players are in form during a season. What I can say is that both players can comfortably play in the same team. They have different strengths and as attacking players, few weaknesses in what their different managers ask of them.
As a football fan I will pay money any day to go and watch Eden Hazard play football. Players like him that can run and dribble with the ball so effectively and efficiently are being driven out of the sport by coaches who want athletes only. Whichever one of them wins the Player of the Year award will have deserved it. I would love them to share it or Hazard wins both.
Spurs haven’t given up hope on the title but they know that their last hope will be next weekend when Chelsea visit Manchester United and Jose Mourinho. A Chelsea win there and the blue ribbons should be tied to the Premier League trophy.
For the neutrals it will be great for the league to be dragged into the penultimate weekend at least. If it does happen then both Chelsea and Spurs will require Hazard and Dele to stand up and be counted just a little bit more.
Who do you think should win the Player of the Year awards in England? Romelu Lukaku at Everton deserves a shout as do both Kane and Diego Costa at Chelsea with their goals. The “Lion does not compare himself to humans” man, Zlatan Ibrahimovic at United too could be among them.
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