Talking Points: Irresistible Hazard; Everton’s weak link

Date published: Saturday 5th November 2016 7:35

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After watching Chelsea demolish Everton 5-0 at Stamford Bridge, Michael Graham hails Eden Hazard’s return to form but questions the Toffees’ goalkeeping strength.

 

When Hazard is good, Chelsea are great

Isn’t it brilliant to have Eden Hazard back?! Well, maybe not if you’re an Everton fan today, but for the neutral there are very few more exciting sights in the Premier League than the Belgian in full flow.

Hazard, for reasons still wholly unexplained, essentially took a sabbatical from football last season. He just wasn’t himself at all. He might have been physically there, but he was just going through the motions.

This season, however, he has been back to his irresistible best, and boy did Everton feel the brunt of it.

Granted, the Toffees didn’t stick close enough to him (I’m not even sorry), and they didn’t play him as well as Ronald Koeman would have liked, I’m sure.

That said, he was producing some close control at speeds that very few defenders in the world could have dealt with.

Ultimately, when Hazard is this good, Chelsea are great. Antonio Conte deserves a lot of credit for the tactical tweaks he has made at Stamford Bridge this season and the sense of calm authority he has added to his side. But reigniting Hazard is unquestionably his most important contribution at the club since his summer arrival.

 

Everton weak between the Stekes 

Everton set about putting their recent investment to good use during the summer and generally did a very good job of it .

They added some heart to the centre of their defence in Ashley Williams, some unpredictability to their flanks in Yannick Bolasie, and some steel to their midfield in Idrissa Gueye. What they failed to add, though, was a quality goalkeeper.

They did sign Maarten Stekelenburg, but the Dutchman is not really the quality required for the kind of level to which Everton aspire. He’s a very good number two, as he proved at Southampton last season, and I suspect that was the role earmarked for him at Goodison Park by Koeman when he was signed too.

However, they failed to add anything better, and Everton now find themselves reliant upon the Dutchman, and that’s not ideal.

Everton collapsed at Stamford Bridge and it was Stekelenburg who was the root of it. He should have done better with Hazard’s opener and he should have done much better with Marcos Alonso’s second just a minute later.

One mistake would’ve perhaps been recoverable. But the second stripped Everton of any chance of digging in after going behind and regrouping.

As Everton look to invest in their side in January, there can be little question where their top priority should lie.

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