Chelsea's Guus Hiddink unsure how to fix Eden Hazard's slump in form
LONDON -- Guus Hiddink insists that he has no concerns about Eden Hazard's level of effort but admits that he is struggling to find the right way to help the Chelsea star rediscover his best form.
Hazard has been a shadow of the player who won the PFA Player of the Year award with 14 Premier League goals and nine assists last season to fire Chelsea to the title, scoring just twice in 38 appearances in all competitions this term.
The Belgian has also been accused by many supporters of lacking commitment after courting interest from Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain in an interview with Le Parisien last month, and he was booed by a section of Stamford Bridge when he requested to come off with an injury in the 77th minute of Chelsea's 2-1 Champions League defeat to the Ligue 1 leaders on Wednesday.
In an interview with Belgian newspaper Le Soir on Friday, Hazard's father Thierry insisted that his son's performances are still being hampered by a lingering hip problem. Hiddink agrees that the 25-year-old is operating at less than peak physical condition but says he will be included in the Chelsea squad to face Everton in Saturday's FA Cup quarterfinal at Goodison Park.
"His father makes a fair judgment," Hiddink said. "[Hazard] is not absent of injury. What is an injury? You have injuries where you can't play and injuries where you can but you are not fully fit, and that also has an influence on the freshness.
"He will be OK, he will be available. He's desperate to participate in the team performance.
"Every now and then I see he is capable of doing beautiful and very efficient things. His father made very good comments about this. Some players have difficult times although they are trying. That's what he's doing in training.
"Sometimes you have players who if they don't feel well, don't appear on the pitch. He likes to be on the pitch and it's a matter of when he will make the next step in terms of the possibilities of his talent.
"We try to find a path where he can grow. It's a different process for everyone. I'm happy for some players that they have increased their efficiency. Of course I have my concerns about him -- whether he should play an hour on full intensity when he's not top, top fit or in another part of the game [as a substitute]. We're trying to help him get as soon as possible to the level where he is expected.
"Sometimes you have to work harder in training but I checked yesterday afternoon with the physios and analysed [Hazard's performance]. There's always a lot of emotion involved when someone is not doing what he's able to do. I try to exclude a lot of emotion and see whether his work rate is ok.
"When I see the figures I see he's doing in training and also in games, I see how many accelerations he makes faster than 21kmph. You can see the intention he's doing in the game and in training. Sometimes you think he's not doing enough but that's not true, so we have to find another way.
"Maybe working harder is possible, or maybe one or two days off might help. We must try to find a way to get him on the level."
Last week the International Football Association Board (IFAB) revealed that a trial of the use of video assistant referees for "game-changing decisions" will begin no later than the 2017-18 season, and Hiddink believes football's latest technological advance is long overdue.
"Finally they have done it," Hiddink added. "We were having our experiments in the 1980s when I was in PSV in Holland with the offside rule by video control.
"It will help the referees because it's proven this year. When you saw the goal [cleared off the line from Harry Kane against Arsenal] that it was impossible for the referee to say yes or no [whether it was over the line] two inches still touching the line. We saw very clearly on the TV.
"Neither the referee nor the linesman can judge that, and when it's decisive in a game like an offside, it's a big help. We remember the goal Frank Lampard made in the World Cup [vs. Germany in 2010]. Everyone saw it was half a yard over the line except the linesman and the referee. We have to learn from more modern sports like rugby and American football."
Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.