Thursday 21 March 2013
Upon arriving in the Barclays Premier League, Eden Hazard made an immediate impact. The Belgian set up both Chelsea goals in his first match in the Barclays Premier League, away to Wigan Athletic, before winning a penalty in the next match at home to Reading and scoring against Manchester City.
Since then it was inevitable that his form would dip a little in his debut season here but, not for the first time, March is proving to be a good month for the Belgian.
After spurring Chelsea’s fightback at Old Trafford in the FA Cup quarter-final with Manchester United, he helped to inspire his side past Steaua Bucharest in the UEFA Europa League, before scoring the second goal in the 2-0 win over West Ham United in the Barclays Premier League at the weekend.
“My confidence is really up at the moment and I feel good in myself,” Hazard told the official Chelsea website. “It's quite weird because, historically, March always seems to be the best time of the year for me.
“Last year I got player of the month in Ligue 1, and a couple of years ago I won the same award. I don't know why but it seems as though things come good for me at this time of the season.”
"We know we have a strong group of players and a great team"
Hazard has hardly had a minute to pause for thought since joining in the summer. Of Chelsea’s 53 matches this season, across five competitions, he has played in 50, only missing three through suspension, something that has surprised him.
“I didn't expect to be playing in every game,” he said. “Thank goodness I haven't been injured so far.
“I have been on the bench on a few occasions but, of course, it's been good for me. We know we have a strong group of players and a great team. The manager has other choices because in attack we have a number of players who can make a difference and decide games on their own.”
On a personal level, Hazard is relatively satisfied with how his first season in the Premier League has gone, but acknowledges the disappointments, notably the premature exit from the UEFA Champions League.
“You have to reserve judgement until the end of the season,” he said. “You can't summarise or sum up until everybody knows exactly what's been won.
“But it was a big disappointment going out of the Champions League so early, particularly as the same thing happened to me with Lille last season, when we were eliminated at the group stage. It's such an important competition and that's why I feel we could have achieved a bit more this season.
“We're on the right path to qualify for next season's tournament, though, and if we do we have enough quality players at the club to go a long way in it. The ultimate objective is to go as far as you can in the Champions League.”
During his first season at Stamford Bridge, Hazard says he has learnt a lot by working with his team-mates.
“It's great and it's a real pleasure to play alongside players of that calibre,” he said. “As a young, developing player myself, it's brilliant for me because you learn playing alongside these guys and you develop your own game in the process.
“In terms of players such as John Terry, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole, you're talking about some of the best players in the world. Even if you're not playing alongside them, just watching them in training or during a match is great in terms of what you can learn.
“Training alongside those players every day helps you learn all the time. They tell you what you need to know out on the pitch and they instil the qualities which are needed.”
Hazard is one of nine members of the Belgian national team in the Barclays Premier League, with Mousa Dembele, Jan Vertonghen (both Tottenham Hotspur), Thomas Vermaelen (Arsenal), Marouane Fellaini, Kevin Mirallas (both Everton), Romelu Lukaku (West Bromwich Albion), Christian Benteke (Aston Villa), Simon Mignolet (Sunderland) and Vincent Kompany (Manchester City). The playmaker is happy to have familiar faces nearby and believes it is benefiting everybody.
"Big clubs can only be judged to have had a successful season if they win trophies"
“We have a crop of players who are all suddenly moving to England at the same time, and we are all roughly in the same age group,” he said. “It's good because we're creating a Belgian culture in the Premier League, and it's good for the players themselves to be playing over here. It's a two-way thing because the players benefit from the experience we get in England, but the Premier League also benefits from having us all here.”
Sunday's goal against West Ham was Hazard's 12th of the campaign, and eighth in the Barclays Premier League, but it is not the player’s favourite. “There have been one or two nice ones, but the goal I scored against Manchester United at Old Trafford [in the FA Cup] probably stands out most,” he said. “It's always good to score at such a nice stadium and it was an important goal as well to get us back in the game.”
After the international break, when Belgium are due to play the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia away and then at home, Chelsea enter a run of matches in quick succession, with four games in eight days. With two trophies to play for and bid to secure UEFA Champions League football for next season, Hazard is targeting a positive end to an intense campaign.
“It's been a good season for me so far but I could have done better in certain situations,” he said. “There have been good moments and bad moments, both for me individually and the team, but hopefully we can finish the season strongly.
“We're still on the right track to win both the FA Cup and Europa League, and we'll be doing everything in our power to make sure that happens because big clubs can only be judged to have had a successful season if they win one or, if they're lucky, several, trophies.”