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Chelsea v Arsenal: Why Eden Hazard is a talent that opponents fear – Alan Pardew

Alan Pardew will join Ian Dennis in Baku for live coverage of the Europa League final on BBC Radio 5 Live and the BBC Sport website on Wednesday from 18:30 BST.

When you are managing Premier League footballers, you find out that there are not many other players they actually really, really fear and admire.

They will tell you they can go up against so and so and deal with him, or you will hear them talking about someone in the dressing room before a game, saying: “He doesn’t really trouble me.”

But in my time at Newcastle, Crystal Palace or West Brom, I never heard any of my players saying that about Chelsea’s Eden Hazard.

In his seven years in the Premier League, Eden has always been someone everyone knows they have to constantly be on their toes for, and have to be aware of where he is the whole time.

It will be the same for Arsenal in Wednesday’s Europa League final, which could be Hazard’s final game for the Blues with Real Madrid favourites to sign him this summer.

Until that move is confirmed it is all just speculation but, if it is the case that the Belgian is about to leave, then this is a game he is going to be even more desperate to win.

He has had a love affair with Chelsea, and he will want to bring that trophy back to Stamford Bridge.

Arsenal will have a lot to say about that, but I think Eden’s motivation will be very high and, in big finals like this one, the very best players tend to deliver.

With 16 goals and 15 assists, Hazard was involved in more Premier League goals than any other player this season

‘He makes you set up your team in a disjointed way’

One of the big things for the Gunners to get right in Baku is how they go about stopping Eden. There is no way their tactics or formation will not address that issue in some way.

If they treat him like a normal player then he is going to embarrass one of their defenders and be a big threat, so they will have to have some kind of security policy around him.

‘We are Chelsea, we can beat anyone’ – Hazard

Among the things I’ve done when I’ve faced him in the past is having a centre-half concentrating on staying closer to him, or a central midfielder doubling up with the full-back down his side.

He would change the way I set up my team, making it disjointed. That is how much power he has, and there are not that many attacking players in the Premier League I would do that for.

Of course, whatever you try, even if you put two men on him, then you know he can still skip past both of them and leave you extremely exposed, as he did on a couple of occasions against my teams.

Goalscoring chances created in PL since start 2012-13
Player Apps Chances created
Eden Hazard (Chelsea) 245 595
David Silva (Man City) 211 566
Christian Eriksen (Tottenham) 206 547
Mesut Ozil (Arsenal) 166 521
Juan Mata (Man Utd) 209 389

‘His half-second wait helps to make him special’

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When I think of Eden as a player, it is of him mainly starting on the left and cutting inside across the pitch. He drives into your central areas with that low centre of gravity and he is so difficult to knock off the ball.

That is where I think he is at his best, and then he has that amazing ability in the final third where he has the composure to wait just that final half-second longer to make sure he is clinical with his finish, or with his final pass.

I have coached so many players who are brilliant up to that point, and then they get a little rush of blood which means the moment has gone.

You sometimes only get in those positions once or twice in a game but, with Eden, if he has two opportunities like that then you are pretty sure you are going to be 2-0 down.

Most Premier League goal involvements since 2012-13
Player Apps Goals Assists Goals + Assists
Sergio Aguero 205 141 35 176
Romelu Lukaku 244 113 34 147
Harry Kane 181 125 18 143
Eden Hazard 245 85 54 139
Christian Eriksen 206 49 60 109
Raheem Sterling 223 66 43 109

How to stop him? ‘Limit his time on the ball’

I never only had one gameplan to stop Eden, because it always depended on the personnel I had available and who else was in the Chelsea team. They always had other dangerous players too.

But the most important thing was always to limit his time in possession, either by stopping the pass from reaching him, or dealing with him quickly when he got it.

If he is not on the ball, then he can’t hurt you – that is the obvious way of thinking there. We applied that pretty effectively on the two occasions my Newcastle team beat his Chelsea side, in 2013 and 2014.

Both of those games were at St James’ Park, which was a place where, helped by the atmosphere, we could apply more pressure on the ball than we could when we were away from home.

It worked, but it is not always possible to limit Chelsea’s possession and, in any case, I don’t think it is as easy to stop Eden influencing games now as it was then.

‘He is a different player now – there is a lot more to his game’

Hazard praises Chelsea boss Mourinho

I first came up against Eden in the first few weeks of his first season at Chelsea, in August 2012, when he put in a brilliant performance against my Newcastle team. But I already knew a lot about him, and how good he was.

I had watched him playing for Lille while I was scouting Yohan Cabaye – they won the French league together in 2011, just before I signed Yohan – and I obviously would have loved to have taken Eden to Newcastle too.

The fans would have loved him there, but even then he was too much money. His price was high because Lille knew they had a special, special talent.

Even as a youngster, he always had the arrogance and composure all top players have when they get on the ball – but he has grown since then. He is a different player now, and there is a lot more to his game.

Back then his influence during matches could be a little more fleeting, but now he can actually control a game, and grab it by the scruff of the neck.

That is why he is being courted by the biggest and best clubs in the world, because it is more than individual performance he is giving you – he is influencing the team too, which is not always the way with that type of attacking player.

Hazard in the Premier League
Season Apps Mins Goals Assists Chances created
2012-13 34 2,636 9 11 65
2013-14 35 2,895 14 7 93
2014-15 38 3,372 14 9 100
2015-16 31 2,190 4 3 66
2016-17 36 3,002 16 5 89
2017-18 34 2,432 12 4 84
2018-19 37 2,925 16 15 98

‘Eden’s character is why he is world class’

Hazard scores ‘fantastic’ fourth for Belgium

Eden now has leadership qualities on the pitch and you can tell from watching his interviews how he has matured as a person off it too.

I am a great admirer of the way he has developed, and that will have had a lot to do with the players he has had around him at Chelsea.

Players like Frank Lampard, John Terry, Didier Drogba and Petr Cech were the perfect role models for him earlier in his career.

That is what people sometimes misunderstand about the game at the top level. You are not just getting the best players together when you build a successful side, you are getting the best characters together too.

Eden is one of them, and that is another reason why he is world class – because he has got that real professionalism and dedication.

He can handle pressure too, and the treatment he gets from defenders in the Premier League.

Whatever happens to him next – whether he goes to Real or Serie A, or stays at Chelsea – you know he can deal with it.

‘I rate him as highly as Messi or Ronaldo’

Hazard has done all he can at Chelsea – Jenas

Eden is compared to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for the level of his attacking performances and, like those two, he has adapted his game to become harder to stop.

In the past, you would only see Eden at the top end of the pitch where he was relying on getting the right service, whereas now he will come deep like Messi does for Barcelona and pick the ball up from his defence.

He starts moves as well as finishes them, and that is part of the reason why he has become so important to Chelsea, this season in particular. They rely on him to get them going, maybe a little bit too much.

I don’t think Arsenal will overly worry about him when he goes wandering and comes deep looking for the ball, but in the final third they will have a plan to deal with him.

The problem for the Gunners is that it will not matter too much whether they are ready for him there or not.

Like most offensive players of his type, Eden craves space. He is more likely to get that if Chelsea score early, and I would fear for Arsenal if that happened, because then he could really go at them.

But he is actually just as dangerous when you are in your defensive shape. Even when you have your 10 men behind the ball, which Arsenal will at times on Wednesday, he can still find a route through.

That’s why I rate him as highly as Messi or Ronaldo, and in the very top echelons as a footballing talent, because he can open the door in that scenario too.

Alan Pardew was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.

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