Eden Hazard has been the Premier League’s best player so far this season.
The Belgian has raced to five league goals already after a hat-trick against Cardiff at the weekend.
He’s averaging a goal every hour and also has two assists to his name, meaning he’s been directly involved in half of league leaders Chelsea’s league goals this campaign.
The first of Hazard’s three goals on Saturday was a cracker.
But it’s only once you’ve watched a few replays you realise what a work of beauty it actually was…
The first thing to note is how aware Hazard is of his surroundings.
As you can see below, his eyes are on the ball as Antonio Rudiger strides out of defence.
When the pass is played into him, he performs a dummy which allows Olivier Giroud to gain possession.
Hazard knows exactly where Giroud will be as well the position of the Cardiff defenders.
When people talk about ‘football IQ’ this is what they mean.
Hazard sees how the move will unfold before anyone else.
When you watch it back you notice he quickly looks over his shoulder a couple of seconds before Rudiger’s pass.
His ability to keep that image of what’s behind him in his head should not be underestimated.
This same skill is what makes Xavi such a good player.
The lay-off from Giroud is perfectly weighted, but there’s still a lot to do as Joe Bennett steps to the ball.
Hazard’s feint is perfectly executed as he changes his body shape and allows the ball to roll across his body, past Bennett’s outstretched foot.
It’s a tremendously subtle piece of skill.
His judgement of Giroud’s pass is down to the millimetre.
If he had telegraphed this movement a moment sooner, Bennett could have adjusted.
But Hazard’s run sucks the Cardiff left-back in, forcing him to commit, before leaving him for dead.
After all that, Hazard is left with a finish from the edge of the box at a considerable angle.
The bottom far corner is the only place he can direct his finish to take the in-form Neil Etheridge out of the equation.
And of course, he does just that, with a low drive just inside of the post.
The finish is great, but not Goal of the Season worthy.
However, when you consider the move as a whole, it’s a goal of the highest quality.
In one smooth sequence, Hazard strings together supreme awareness, daring invention, incisive movement, deft skill, and a clinical finish.
Rarely will you see so many elite attributes on display in such a short space of time for a goal this season.
It’s not as cinematic as a 30-yard wallop into the top corner, but this goal deserves to be remembered.
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