CHELSEA’s assistant-coach Steve Holland insists Eden Hazard has the right to protect himself from potentially career-ending tackles.
Hazard is frequently on the receiving end of hard challenges yet to Holland’s dismay, gifted players like the Belgium forward are criticised for spending too much time in the air after jumping to avoid serious harm.
Rather than denying Hazard the chance to light up the Premier league with his skills through an overzealous focus on diving, Holland believes it is the perpetrators of bad tackles who should be judged more harshly.
“Hazard just gets on with it. He’s incredible in that respect given the stick he takes,” Holland said. “A model pro who gets up straight away after being whacked can discourage a referee from taking action against a player who is trying to take him out of the game.
“Five minutes later he gets whacked again because the player hasn’t got a yellow card. It’s all part of what a player thinks is right or wrong.
“Hazard at Stoke — if he doesn’t see that tackle [by Phil Bardsley on Dec. 22] coming and doesn’t get his studs off the ground, it finishes his career. Filipe Luis was on the receiving end of a tackle against Hull [by Tom Huddlestone on Dec. 13] on the halfway line.
“Those two tackles were career-ending tackles if they connect, no doubt. Yet we spend two or three days talking about how long a player has spent in the air rather than what is done about the perpetrators of those challenges. Where’s the logic in that?
“If nothing’s done, players liked Eden Hazard will not be able to show the supporters the ability they have. Eden is very honest, that’s for sure.
“I’m sure he’s learning to protect himself because you can’t rely on anybody else to do it. You have to do it yourself.”