It appears Jose Mourinho's very public words of motivation for Eden Hazard back in August 2013 are beginning to, rather explosively, bear fruit.
Despite nearly falling out with the Chelsea boss in November following a passport blunder, Hazard's style of play has undergone a subtle yet accelerated evolution and, after a small delay, the fans are beginning to see the results.
Hazard has already scored eight goals in the Premier League this season, one less than he scored in the entire 2012/13 campaign. His approach play is more direct as his style of play becomes more aggressive and it is clear that Mourinho has Cristiano Ronaldo blueprints in his mind.
However, the most noticeable change in the 22-year-old's game is his defensive work rate. Under Mourinho, Hazard has started 26 games in all competitions but his desire to track back and help his team out defensively is impressive.
He has made 14 tackles and 13 interceptions in the Premier League and this represents an essential part of the Chelsea game plan in a number of ways. The three players that Mourinho likes to deploy behind the striker are primarily creative but he demands that they help the team defensively. The tendency of the midfielders to over-commit can often leave the team exposed at the back.
That is why the Chelsea manager uses players like Hazard, Oscar and Willian ranged behind a lone striker. Hazard and Willian are very fast and quick to track back, with Willian's work rate a particular stand-out. Oscar could arguably be used in a Ramires-type role as he is energetic, strong and tackles exceptionally well for a number 10 (take a look at the Chelsea-Swansea game on Boxing day to see the evidence).
You can see why Juan Mata is out of favour at Stamford Bridge despite his undeniable talent. It is also clear why Hazard has responded so well to the encouragement from his boss. Following a drop in form at Lille during the 2010-2011 season, the Belgian national coach, Georges Leekens, criticized his mental attitude. Following this, Hazard scored a dozen goals in the second half of the season and was quoted as saying: "I learned a lot during those few weeks, mentally speaking. And since then things have got better."
There is no doubting the Belgian international's ability and potential. He single handedly won three points for his team at the Stadium of Light in December and again on Boxing day against Swansea City, while also scoring key goals against the likes of Liverpool, Schalke and West Brom.
With the Blue's two points behind league leaders Arsenal in the BPL, through to the knockout phase and a reunion with club legend Didier Drogba in the Champions League and in the fourth round of the FA Cup following a 2-0 victory over Derby last weekend, Hazards precociousness and current vein of form will undoubtedly be a key factor in Chelsea's assault on those fronts.
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