The Hard Tackle takes a look at the Chelsea players who have statistically been the best 3 performers for the Blues so far this season
“CHELSEA! CHELSEA! CHELSEA!”
The fans are chanting again in all their glory as the feel-good factor has returned to the Stamford Bridge. From the devastating lows of last season to the record breaking highs of this, Chelsea have bounced back and how, establishing themselves as the firm favourites to win the Premier League title come May.
However, even though they have a five-point lead over Liverpool on top of the table right now, it wasn’t as straightforward as it seems, because after kicking off the season with three wins in a row, Chelsea had to battle to earn a point away at Swansea City; and then came a crushing blow.
Chelsea lost back-to-back matches, first at home to Liverpool by the odd goal in three, then to fierce London rivals Arsenal by a crushing three goals. Those defeats brought back frightening memories of the 2015/16 season and many thought that this could be another campaign of struggle for the Blues.
But then came a turnaround, and boy did Conte turn things around. The Italian changed his team’s formation and Chelsea embarked on a club-record breaking winning run that saw Conte’s men win 13 games in a row, beating Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and champions Leicester City convincingly along the way.
So while that incredible winning streak was recently snapped at White Hart Lane, this has been a season when Chelsea have well and truly shrugged off the residual effects of the 2015/16 season, when they finished a dismal 10th on the table.
Quite naturally, there have been a lot of outstanding performers for the Blues this season, but who are the best 3 statistically? Have a look.
3. Marcos Alonso
WhoScored Rating: 7.37
Not a name many would have anticipated to see pop up here, with the likes of N’Golo Kante and the ever dependable Cesar Azpilicueta the players who are usually expected to make any top 3 performers list for their side.
This mirrors the expectations, or the lack thereof, when he was signed by Chelsea at the fag end of the summer transfer window. Having previously played for Bolton Wanderers and Sunderland in the Premier League, many associated the Spaniard’s name with a side struggling for survival rather than one fighting for the league title.
However, he has thwarted his skeptics with elan as after initially sitting on the fringes, Alonso has established himself in Antonio Conte’s 3-4-3 formation as the left wing back. That his manager didn’t have any other option to fall back on when he changed his system did work in Alonso’s favour, but the Spaniard was the one who grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
Alonso has started every single game since the crushing loss to Arsenal, and despite playing in the slightly advanced and attacking wing-back role, he has not forgotten his defensive duties, being a contributing factor for Chelsea keeping a league high 11 clean sheets this season.
Alonso has looked assured and solid at the back, and has the stats to back it, with 2.3 tackles and 3.1 clearances per game. He has contributed to his team’s attacking cause as well, hitting more than a shot and laying in more than a key pass per game, and he also has a goal and two assists to show for his efforts.
So having become Antonio Conte’s go-to man on the left flank, the empirical evidence shows that Alonso also has statistics to back his rise in the Chelsea boss’ new system.
2. Diego Costa
WhoScored Rating: 7.71
As Chelsea failed miserably in their defence of the Premier League title last season, Diego Costa, much like the rest of his teammates, failed to show up for much of the first half of the campaign, with his contributions being close to negligent.
The Spain international looked seemingly unhappy with life at Stamford Bridge and there were rumours that Costa was on his way out. But upon the arrival of Guus Hiddink at the West London club he picked up form and turned in a much-improved second half of the season, ending the campaign with 12 goals and 6 assists.
At the start of the 2016/17 season though, Costa looked a changed man under the tutelage of Antonio Conte, after the first few games when he was at his combative worst. With his combustible past behind him, Costa has devoted his complete focus towards his improving his game.
Lo and behold, there has been a stark improvement in his numbers, with Costa romping to the top of the goal-scoring charts, leading Chelsea to the top of the table. With 14 goals, he has already improved on his numbers from last season, and when you add the five assists, Costa has directly contributed to 45% of Chelsea’s goals this season.
While numbers do tell a tale, his impact can also be measured by the fact that Costa has scored match-winning goals against the likes of West Ham United, Middlesbrough, Crystal Palace, West Bromwich Albion and others.
There are reports that his Chelsea future is under cloud after a bust up with manager Antonio Conte earlier this week, but it will be in Chelsea’s best interests if they manage to keep hold of their top scorer, as his goals will be vital to their Premier League fortunes this season.
1. Eden Hazard
WhoScored Rating: 7.93
Chelsea’s inexplicable downfall last season, was mirrored by that of their talisman in their Premier League title winning season in 2014/15 Eden Hazard, with the Belgian winger looking a pale shadow of the then Player of the Year who led the Blues to a comfortable league triumph.
As Hazard went AWOL, Mourinho’s team were left in disarray as Chelsea crumbled in the first half of the 2015/16 season. However, Chelsea’s number 10 significantly picked up form towards the end of the campaign to end the season with four goals and three assists.
That was a paltry tally for the lofty standards Hazard had set for himself, but it was a sign that the Belgium international was, slowly but surely, starting to pick up form to lead Chelsea towards another successful campaign.
Surely enough, Hazard has looked to be back at his very best for large parts of this season, and the change of formation from Conte has only helped him.
With three central defenders, a midfield pivot of the energetic N’Golo Kante and the workhorse Nemanja Matic making Chelsea’s defence nearly impenetrable at times, and Marcos Alonso to back him up, Hazard has had the freedom to attack without worrying about his defensive duties all that much.
Numbers back him up as well, with Hazard already surpassing his tally for last season. He has netted nine times for Chelsea in the Premier League this season, five more than his tally for the 2015/16 season, and he looks well on his way to equalling, and perhaps even bettering, his best return of 14 goals from the 13/14 and 14/15 seasons.
And while figures of 2 assists (so far) and 2.1 key passes per game show that he hasn’t been as creative enough, the 2.6 shots and 4.6 dribbles per game prove that he’s at the centre of nearly every Chelsea attack.
So after a season of unexplained mediocrity Hazard has had a resurgence this season. Stats show that he’s Chelsea’s talisman yet again, and his form will be extremely crucial to Chelsea’s fortunes this season as they make their charge towards the Premier League title.
Here are Hazard’s best bits from this season so far: