Eden Hazard equalled another Premier League record at the weekend to emphasise that he is capable of making a big impact whenever he’s on the pitch – whether from the start or off the bench.
The Belgian provided his fourth assist of the season in the English top flight, to go along with seven goals, when his free-kick was turned home by Alvaro Morata in our 3-1 win over Crystal Palace on Sunday.
In doing so, he became only the third player to assist a goal in three consecutive substitute appearances in the Premier League, after Tomasz Radzinski for Everton in March 2004 and another Blues favourite, Arjen Robben, in April 2005.
The Dutch winger’s efforts were spread over the best part of six months, as he marked his second appearance with an assist for Frank Lampard in our thrilling 4-1 success against West Brom at the Hawthorns. In March he helped his old PSV team-mate Mateja Kezman put the finishing touches on a thumping victory over Crystal Palace and, finally, he teed up Lampard again to score our 100th goal of the campaign in a 3-1 win over Fulham which put us within touching distance of the title.
It remains to be seen where the Blues will finish this campaign after a strong start, but if our No10 continues both his goalscoring and assisting form we won’t be far away from competing for the top honours.
Five minutes into his Premier League season, having been eased back into action by Maurizio Sarri, Hazard showed his new boss exactly what he was capable of. Collecting the ball inside his own half, he eased away from a couple of Huddersfield challenges in a manner Chelsea fans have grown accustomed to seeing, before driving towards goal and slipping the ball into the path of the unmarked Pedro, who produced a lovely finish, dinking the ball over Ben Hamer to make it 3-0.
While that goal was merely the icing on the cake of an opening-day victory, a week later Hazard proved to be decisive when we needed him most. A dream start against Arsenal had seen us lead 2-0, only to be pegged back before the half-time whistle had blown. On came Hazard with a third of the match still to play, and he produced a telling contribution with 10 minutes to go as he skipped past his marker down the left and laid the ball off for Marcos Alonso to sweep a wonderful finish beyond Petr Cech.
Unsurprisingly, given his stellar start to the season, Hazard’s next appearances for the Blues in the Premier League were all as part of the starting line-up, as he put in a run of performances which earned him the English top-flight’s Player of the Month award for September. However, a recent injury absence forced him out of the side, which meant he was back on the bench for our home game against Crystal Palace on Sunday.
Just as against Huddersfield, he wasted no time making his presence felt, providing the assist for Morata’s winning goal within two minutes of entering the field. Granted there was a touch of good fortune about it, as his free-kick was missed by a defender and allowed to bounce through to the back post, but the statistics don’t lie – whether he plays for 90 minutes or 90 seconds, Hazard is capable of making a decisive impact at any moment.