Eden Hazard: I am better now than PFA Player of the Year season in 2014-15
Eden Hazard believes he is a better player under Antonio Conte than when he was voted PFA Player of the Year for inspiring Chelsea to the Premier League title in the 2014-15 season.
Chelsea beat Arsenal 3-1 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday to maintain a nine-point lead at the top of the table with Hazard crowning the performance by scoring one of the goals of the season, beating four Arsenal defenders with a slaloming run from the halfway line before firing past Petr Cech.
The Belgian left Stamford Bridge limping as a result of taking a kick to the ankle from Francis Coquelin in the buildup to his goal, but insists he is happy to be targeted by defenders because it means he is exerting an even greater influence on matches than he did under Jose Mourinho two seasons ago.
"It's true -- when I get a lot of kicks, I feel really in the game," Hazard said after the Arsenal win. "And when people don't touch me, it tells me I'm not doing well. No good. I'm not saying I like to be kicked, but it's good for me to feel I am in the game. Definitely. A motivation.
"I try to be this kind of player: the type who does something whenever he gets the ball. Sometimes in the past I've gone through games where I've not touched the ball for 20 or 30 minutes. These days I'm always trying to have lots of touches, to be involved and to play my football for 90 minutes.
"The manager asks a lot of me. A lot. When we don't have the ball, he wants me to defend, to close inside and be ready to chase the diagonal [pass], and when we do have it I have to counter-attack and be free, always trying to do some 'magic' like I did here.
"With experience, you improve. I'm a better player now, more complete than I was when I was player of the year."
Hazard registered 14 goals and nine assists as Chelsea surged to the Premier League title by eight points in the 2014-15 season. Saturday's strike against Arsenal was his 10th of the current campaign, while Chelsea have won 16 of their last 18 matches since switching to a 3-4-3 system in September.
"I think we are in better form, as a team," Hazard added. "Not just me. Two years ago I was on fire, you know. But maybe I can score more goals this season. I already have 10. Two years ago I finished with 14 [in the Premier League]. We have a lot of games to play still, so we will see."
Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.