Opinion: Do Real Madrid need Eden Hazard?

  • Backing his point with stats and excellent analysis, Managing Madrid’s Om Arving argues that despite Eden Hazard’s incredible ability he is not what Los Blancos really need right now
  • Hazard is world class at breaking defences and creating chances, but not at scoring goals, thus he can’t really replicate Cristiano Ronaldo’s excellent goal-scoring tally

Come-and-get-me World Cup star

“Eden Hazard has just come off a brilliant World Cup campaign that saw him lead Belgium’s Golden Generation to a third place finish. Against Brazil, Hazard played a critical role in advancing Belgium up the pitch on the counter-attack and evading the Seleção’s counterpress. He completed 100% of his 9 take-ons and drew 7 fouls, something that proved especially crucial in the dying minutes as Belgium looked to waste time.

“And that performance was no fluke. In total terms, no one single-handedly advanced the ball more than Eden Hazard in Russia. On a per game basis,only Neymar logged more progressive dribbles, clocking in at 7.8 to Hazard’s 6.1. Whichever way you slice it, Hazard had a brilliant World Cup, and that has sparked rumors that Real Madrid are interested in acquiring his services.

“Los Blancos also have a track record of signing players off the back of excellent World Cup campaigns; think Mesut Özil, Sami Khedira, Toni Kroos, and James Rodríguez. Consequently, it appears that the only obstacles in Real’s way are their own willingness to sign Hazard and Chelsea’s own willingness to sell him. Assuming Roman Abramovich can be convinced by the right price, the question arises – should Real Madrid go out and buy Hazard?”

Excellent at breaking tight defence lines

“The Chelsea wide-man is brilliant when running at defenders. In the Premier League last season, he logged 6.1 successful dribbles p90 at a ridiculous success rate of 81.3%.

“Like Messi and Neymar, the threat Hazard poses with the ball at his feet forces defenders to rush out to close him down. This allows Eden to collapse lines of defense and free up space for teammates that can be accessed with incisive passes. As one would imagine, this type of ability means that Hazard is tasked with leading transition attacks and breaking down deep blocks, making him the critical piece to Chelea’s attack. Such a role is reflected in his xGchainp90 figure of 0.72, which meant that he was involved in nearly half of Chelsea’s 1.56 xG p90 in the 2017/18 league season.

“When looking at Hazard’s more direct hand in chance creation, the numbers look decidedly more average. He has only ever managed more than 10 assists in the EPL once (in his first year with Chelsea), with a total average of 6.5 assists per league season (he fashioned 4 in 17/18). However, it is worth noting that this statistic is slightly misleading, as Hazard creates a healthy number of chances p90 (2.61 last season) and his teammates’ finishing has generally been poor:

“Nevertheless, Eden’s 17/18 expected assist (xA) figure of 0.27 falls far short when compared to elite creators, such as Kevin De Bruyne and Mesut Özil, who both notched 0.38 xA p90 in the EPL last season. A clever fan might argue that the defensive systems Hazard has been forced to play in has limited his full attacking potential. That is a valid point and there should be little doubt that Hazard’s goal creation would improve if he came to Madrid.”

Limited goalscoring ability

“While Hazard is excellent at creating chaos, opening up defenses, and fashioning shooting opportunities for others, he is not an elite goal scorer. His non-penalty xG p90 stands at a mediocre 0.25 (0.26 in 16/17 and 0.24 in 14/15) and he only managed a total of 10 non-penalty goals in the league last season (12, if you add in the penalties). As the xG p90 figure would suggest, Hazard simply hasn’t gotten into enough quality goal scoring situations with any serious regularity over his Chelsea career.

“While his shot locations are actually quite decent for a wide player, he doesn’t produce nearly enough volume to be a regular goal threat. The 2.61 shots p90 he took in 17/18 are the most he’s ever managed in his league career, with only 1.6 of those shots arriving in the penalty area and 0.1 coming in the six-yard box.

“A clever fan might again argue that this is due to the defensive systems Hazard has had to play in, but that logic falls flat when the man himself has made it clear that he prefers to play this way: ‘I often ask myself what I can do to become like Messi and Ronaldo and score 50 or 60 goals in a season. I try of course but I realize that I will never be a true scorer. It’s not in me. It is mainly mental.‘”

Real Madrid need goalscorer, not goalcreator

“Eden Hazard is not an elite goal scorer and the chance that he becomes one is slim. Unfortunately, goals are exactly what Real Madrid need at the moment. Real Madrid’s only legitimate option at the center forward position is an aging Karim Benzema who has been on the decline since 2016/17. And as promising as Mayoral may still seem, a grand total of 1353 minutes over the past two seasons is not to enough experience to be the first-choice back-up, let alone proper competition for Benzema, next season.

 

“Real Madrid need a proven goal scorer to make up for most of Ronaldo’s lost production. With Mbappe looking like an impossible target and Kane seemingly happy with his situation at Tottenham, Madrid will have to be content to sign stop-gap options that will provide them with goals until a better and/or younger forward becomes available. Lewandowski remains an excellent and realistic option, with on-the-move players like Higuaín also capable of doing the job.

“At the end of the day, it is difficult to argue that Eden Hazard wouldn’t improve Real Madrid. He is an elite line-breaker who creates a sizable amount of chances in a defensive system. Despite this, he doesn’t solve Real Madrid’s goal problem and Los Merengues already have a young, high-ceiling left-winger waiting in the ranks. For those reasons, it is ultimately difficult to view the signing of Eden Hazard as anything other than superfluous.”

What do you think? Should Los Blancos make a move for Hazard?

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