Given the importance of each player to their respective team, much has been said in terms of a comparison to be draw between Alexis Sanchez and Eden Hazard.
To the naked eye we can see that Alexis is the far superior athlete, but Hazard has the brain and technical ability rivalled by very few. It is much like the Cristiano Ronaldo versus Lionel Messi debate - with Alexis being Ronaldo and Hazard being Messi - and, although not quite the same level, the similarities are there nonetheless.
Another example would be another between a Gooner and a Blue the Thierry Henry vs Didier Drogba discussion. Despite Henry's endless ability and constant goal scoring, Henry could never match Drogba's big game ability and when two players are so different, it is quite difficult to actually decide who is better and stats cannot give us the full story.
Remember, football is a team game, and to finalise a decision, you have to consider the other players that can affect the key stats of an individual player. There are also other variables when it comes to collating stats that need to be taken into account.
If you go to Squawka's excellent 'comparison matrix' you will see that Hazard has a much more impressive defensive score. But how can this be when, if you watch both players closely, Alexis gets back a lot more?
Well that's precisely it. Inevitably if you get back more often, you're going to lose more tackles than the other man. However you will also win more. It is like this with all the stats. So that will pull his defence score down. Alexis has also committed more fouls. So whilst Alexis gets back more, wins more tackles, interceptions, more aerial duels and so on, he will also lose more. So the stats do not tell the full story.
Now, to talk about goals we ought to remove penalties from the score, seeing as Hazard is the designated taker for Chelsea while Alexis is not afforded the same responsibility with Arsenal. We can say for sure that Hazard is a superior penalty taker, but that is easily the least impressive win either of these men would claim over one another.
In 27 Premier League appearances Alexis has 13 goals and Hazard has nine in 29 (having scored two penalties). There is no doubt Alexis is a superior finisher (based on this season), with the angles and types of goals he scores, better shot accuracy and, obviously, a better goals ratio.
However, when you're on the pitch you have to take chances, and whilst Alexis scores more, Hazard has a slightly better conversion rate of a goal every 6.44 shots, compared to Alexis' 6.46. Now the difference is virtually nothing and Alexis has had more shots, so take that into account. But it is clear these two are actually pretty equal when it comes to taking chances.
Whether Hazard's goals have been easier chances or not is besides the point, with his excellent positioning and run making often resulting in far simpler opportunities to convert.
A fine example of this was when Hazard opened the scoring in Chelsea's 2–0 win over Hull on 13 December, with the goal being only the second headed one of his entire career. It was the run that caught the eye on this goal. It reminded me of Messi's goal in the 2009 Champions League final, despite the opposition being much easier, making a run to a ball you, it often doesn't matter.
If the run is as perfect as it was and the cross in the right place you will get the opportunity 9/10 times. Hazard did and he took it. Alexis himself also scored a wonderful header this term, against Burnley, although that owed more to sheer determination rather than expert positioning.
For me, when it comes to finishing these two are so incredibly close that it's so hard to call. The stats really are not enough to separate them. However do consider that Sanchez has often, particularly at the start of the campaign, been required to carry Arsenal, whereas Hazard has owed much to a supporting cast.
When it comes to assists and passing, we have yet another difficult decision to make. Alexis has one more assist on seven. But I've always thought assists tell very little about a player and a difference of just one is certainly not enough to say Alexis is better, even if you consider Hazard is part of a superior side.
However, if you look at key passes, Hazard leads by 16. That is a difference that means something, while Hazard has completed significantly more passes in general. And, perhaps even more surprisingly, we can go to last season when Alexis played for Barcelona and see an even larger gap between the two. Remember also that Arsenal have a bigger culture for passing than Chelsea. For me, there is no discussion on who is a superior passer.
Hard to choose
Here is what we can conclude from this: Sanchez is better defensively and gets back more, Hazard is a better passer and has a better footballing brain. In terms of shooting the stats show they are almost equal, but I give the edge to Alexis. It is, however, more his job to score whereas Hazard is more of a provider, which shows in his passing stats.
However, if we look at performance on the international scene, it's clear to me that Alexis has performed better there. I also think he's dealt with the Champions League better over his whole career and also has much more experience.
But, of course, there's two years between Alexis and Hazard in age and, if we look the Belgian two years down the line, it would be fair to expect him to be superior to his Chilean rival.
Now would seem like a time to declare an allegiance - I am an Arsenal fan, so would normally say Alexis is the better when asked. But if I'm truly honest I can't choose between them.
How can we compare?
I'm the same when it comes to Lionel Messi versus Cristiano Ronaldo. The players are just so different. It's like Pelé vs Maradona. How do you compare them?
I'm always someone who is indecisive. Earlier this season I'd have said Alexis and Ronaldo over Hazard and Messi all day long, as most were. Then 2015 hits, form changes and I've changed from Ronaldo to Messi. Nobody compares Zidane to Vieira, so how do you compare Alexis and Hazard?
In reality, I'm of the opinion that Alexis is not better than Hazard and Hazard is not better than Alexis. The same with Ronaldo and Messi - when players are that different it's near impossible to decide taking everything into account. You can say one is better at one thing, and someone else with say the other is better at another.
And here's the funny part: I think Chelsea and Arsenal would both improve if they swapped Alexis and Hazard.
Arsenal and Chelsea fans, we want to know what you think - who is better: Alexis Sanchez or Eden Hazard?
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