FanZone's Chelsea blogger Dylan Clive waxes lyrical about Eden Hazard's stunning impact in recent games - and pours praise on Frank Lampard.
Over recent weeks, the Chelsea number 17 shirt has begun to resemble less of a footballing jersey and more of a warning sign. Call it the skull and cross bones of the football pitch if you like but far from illustrating a danger of corrosion or high flammability, the number 17 highlights an altogether different kind of Hazard; namely the 22-year-old Belgian with a reputation for putting opposition defences (and ball-boys) at great risk.
For £35million you would expect a half-decent player but as Chelsea fans have become all-too accustomed of late, large transfer fees count for little. Let's be clear, this is not a petition for the former Lille winger to be named player of the season - but no-one can deny that Eden Hazard has been making quite an impact of late.
His goal in stoppage time against Sparta Prague was an explosive moment of Belgian brilliance, whilst his stylish finesse finish at Old Trafford inspired a second-half fightback full of character and desire. What is more, both crucial goals came at critical times and show that Hazard has the ability to step up and deliver in the big matches; all the more important considering his efforts have ensured the fight for silverware is still very much alive on a domestic and European front.
Not content with the tag of super sub, Hazard put in arguably his best performance in a Blue shirt when starting in the recent victory over West Ham. It was as breath-taking and eye-catching from an attacking viewpoint as it was cruel and unpleasant from a defender's. The way he toyed with the West Ham backline brought back memories of a certain Gianfranco Zola twisting and turning Jamie Carragher with so many side-steps and step-overs that the Liverpool defender must have thought he was marking triplets.
It was only a matter of time before the explosive pace of Hazard, coupled with his capacity to change direction in an instant, sparked rumour of a new Messi in the making. Much like the Atomic Flea, Hazard also has the uncanny ability to bounce off defenders and stay on his feet, which is testament to his low centre of gravity and uncanny resemblance to a Weeble.
At times frustrating for drifting in and out of games, at times unplayable, Hazard is improving every game and hopefully for Chelsea fans, peaking at exactly the right time.
The fixture congestion demands that there be a large element of rotation over the final months of the season so it will be fascinating to see how Señor Interim manages the situation.
We have seen that Hazard is equally adept at having an impact coming off the bench as he is starting - but perhaps the biggest focus will be on double goal centurion Frank Lampard. Without becoming too engrossed on the topic of Bobby Tambling's record, as that deserves a separate blog in its own right, I only wish to congratulate Lampard, as no doubt millions of other fans around the world do too, on his 200th Chelsea goal. To score that number of goals for one club is an astonishing feat and to do it from midfield is bordering on the ridiculous.
Let me finish by returning to the main theme of this blog post and the Chelsea number 17.
A thought has occurred to me; if Hazard's sparkling run of form continues and his popularity among Chelsea fans soars to new heights, what are the chances of Blues fans paying homage to their star man in the same way as they embraced another wonderfully gifted young recruit? David Luiz afros have been all the rage at Stamford Bridge recently but could the Hazard neck-beard be the next big thing?
By Dylan Clive, FanZone's Chelsea blogger. Follow us on Twitter at @FanZone!