The Premier League has seen a fair volume of transfer activity this summer, which can make life tricky for fantasy manager’s that know little about some of these new signings. To help out, here at FFC we will be taking a look at some of the Premier League’s new arrivals, and we start with Hazard.
Hazard began his football career playing for hometown club Royal Stade Brainois at the age of four. Hazard spent eight years at the club before moving to Tubize. While at Tubize, he was spotted by a Lille scout while playing in a local tournament. Hazard subsequently joined Lille in 2005, and in May 2007 he signed his first professional contract agreeing to a three year deal with the club.
Life at Lille
After a handful of first team performances in his debut season, Hazard was permanently promoted to the senior Lille team in the 2008/09 season by new manager Rudi Garcia. Hazard put in a number of impressive early performances which quickly resulted in Lille offering him a three year contract extension in November 2008, tying him to the club until 2012.
For Lille, tying Hazard to an extended contract proved a very shrewd move, as the attacking midfielder has been nothing short of sensational for the French club. In the 2008/09 and the 2009/10 seasons Hazard was awarded the Young Player of the Year trophy, becoming the first player since its inception in 1994 to win the award twice. Hazard didn’t stop picking up awards there though! In both the 2010/11 and the 2011/12 seasons, Hazard was awarded the Player of the Year award, and in doing so became only the second player in the awards’ history to achieve the honour in consecutive seasons.
After winning the French League and Cup double with Lille in the 2010/11 season, and racking up 20 goals and 15 assists in the French League in the 2011/12 season, you can see why his arrival at Chelsea has caused quite a stir!
Any fantasy manager that is seriously considering playing Hazard will be keen to know how he has performed for Lille over the last few seasons. The table below outlines his goal and assist statistics in the French League, over each of the last 5 seasons, whilst playing for Lille.
As you can see, Hazard has simply got better and better from one season to the next, culminating in a hugely impressive 20 goals and 15 assists from 38 league appearances last year. Rated as a midfielder in the FPL, if Hazard can get anywhere near that type of return in the Premier League then he will quickly become one of the “must have” players of the season. Be warned though, we said “if”!
A Belgian international, Hazard has drawn some rave reviews from all corners. Joe Cole, the former Chelsea player who spent last season on loan at Lille, said “he’s got everything. He’ll maybe become one of the best players in the world”. Zidane said “”I would sign Hazard for Madrid with my eyes closed.”
After watching Hazard make his Chelsea debut in their first pre-season game, scoring in a 4-2 win over Seattle Sounders, Sami Mokbel of the Daily Mail described him as “Robert Pires, Lionel Messi and Dennis Bergkamp all rolled into one.” While this might be a tad exaggerated, we certainly get the message that the lad has a lot of potential.
Hazard primarily plays as either an attacking midfielder or a winger. Under Lille manager Rudi Garcia, Hazard largely played as a winger in the team’s 4-3-3 formation. One of his key attributes is his ability to effectively use both feet which often sees him switching flanks. During the 2011/12 season, Hazard began to be used more as a central attacking midfielder by Garcia, whilst also permitted to roam back onto the wing when required.
Two of Hazard’s most impressive traits are his pace and technical ability. As you will have seen by his goal and assist stats in the 2011/12 season, when played in an attacking role, Hazard is more than capable of producing sensational results.
Early Season Fixtures
Chelsea have a Double Gameweek in gameweek 1 which makes Hazard a very interesting prospect. That being said, you need to be aware that the Blues follow up the Double Gameweek with no fixture at all in gameweek 3.
Overall, looking at Chelsea’s opening five fixtures, it would appear that they have quite a comfortable start to this season’s Premier League campaign. Wigan (A), Reading (H), Newcastle (H), QPR (A) and Stoke City (H) are all fixtures that Chelsea have a decent opportunity of winning.
Should We Play Hazard?
Hazard is without doubt a real headache for fantasy managers ahead of gameweek 1. Should we select him in our opening fantasy teams or not????
On the plus side he has been absolutely prolific in recent seasons at Lille, and has been frequently compared to footballing greats such as Messi and Ronaldo. On the negative side he has not yet proven himself on the demanding Premier League stage, and we can’t be assured of the game time he will get at Chelsea.
For us, it is this last point which is the key one. Chelsea have a huge amount of midfield talent in their squad, which means at this stage we can’t be sure that Hazard will start every game, or play the full 90 minutes. Di Matteo has the luxury of choosing his midfield from the likes of Mata, Lampard, Ramires, Meireles, Essien, Hazard, Marin and Oscar. As we all learnt last season with Fernando Torres and Andy Carroll, a high transfer fee does not necessarily mean either success in the Premier League or guaranteed starts for a player.
With that being said, from what we have seen, read and heard, it would appear that Hazard has a strong chance of being a real success at Stamford Bridge. On balance, your decision of whether or not to play Hazard from gameweek 1 will come down to your appetite for risk. With Chelsea enjoying an opening Double Gameweek in gameweek 1, he could well be worth fielding as a calculated risk that offers significant upside. For the more conservative managers, however, you may want to sit on the sidelines and see the game time he is given, and how he adapts to Premier League life, before outlaying a hefty £9.5m on the young Belgian.
Whilst it is a tough call to make, one thing we can be sure of is that this chap is going to be the topic of much debate between now and the gameweek 1 deadline on the 18th August.