LONDON (Reuters) – The erratic form of Belgium international Eden Hazard has been widely identified as one of the key reasons Chelsea have performed so badly this season, but manager Guus Hiddink said on Tuesday he was determined to get him back to his best.
The 25-year-old midfielder, England’s double Footballer of the Year for 2014-15, has been a shadow of his normal self recently.
Hazard scored 19 goals to help Chelsea win the Premier League and League Cup last season but has failed to find the net in 27 appearances in this campaign.
Asked if Hazard needed an arm around him, the interim Dutch coach told reporters before Wednesday’s home league match against West Bromwich Albion: “Nah, I am not his mother — but we will give him the proper attention and the time to come back.
“For me it is about freshness. If the mind is fresh and players step up and enjoy training, it is a sign of freshness,” Hiddink added.
“At the Ballon d’Or yesterday you saw the freshness of the players there, even after winning I don’t know how many trophies. They are playing with the freshness of a youngster.
“That is what we are aiming for with him as well, he has to enjoy it again and get rid of his physical problems, then he will come back to the level he can play at.”
Hazard’s woes started on the opening day of the campaign when he was the player treated by former Chelsea doctor Eva Carneiro in the match against Swansea City.
That led to her public bust-up with former manager Jose Mourinho and she subsequently left the club before Mourinho followed her out the door.
Hazard will miss Wednesday’s match because of a groin injury but striker Diego Costa will be fit to face the Baggies after suffering a knock to his knee during Chelsea’s FA Cup win over Scunthorpe United on Sunday.
The champions are 14th in the table after winning only six of their 20 games this season, but are unbeaten in their last five matches since Mourinho was fired on Dec. 17, showing a few flashes of last season’s title-winning form.
(Reporting by Mike Collett, editing by Ed Osmond)