**Disclaimer** In no way is this an attempt to generate hits via having the keywords Eden Hazard, Arsenal and Transfer in the same article. Over the past few weeks questions about the future of Lille’s fantastic little Belgian have been flooding in via twitter and other avenues. It is time to put these to bed….for now.

Recently Arsenal’s form has meant the chance of winning the title has slipped away. Drawing one each at home to Liverpool and then Bolton’s 90th minute winner at the Reebok all but ruled out the chance of the Premier League title residing in North-East London this summer.

Questions were instantly asked of the team Arsene Wenger has under his disposal. Different theories exist on how Arsenal could improve and in what positions they should strengthen this summer; a centre-back, defensive midfielder, goalkeeper, centre-forward. If you listen to some observers pretty much a whole team!

One name that continues to appear in all the gossip columns is Eden Hazard. The 20 year-old forward has enjoyed a fantastic year in Ligue 1. After a slow start he picked up before Christmas and asserted himself as Lille’s main attacking threat. For the last three or four years he has been a top prospect now he seems to be playing some of his best football and really driving the team forward. Lille currently find themselves in a title race with Olympique Marseille, the form of Hazard will be crucial if Lille are to win their first title in 56 years.

Whether they win the title or not, barring a total collapse Les Dogues will play in next seasons Champions League, finishing either first or second will mean no qualifying round and they will go straight into the group stage – the same position that Arsenal should find themselves in.

Liverpool fans have asked in the past if Hazard would move to Anfield. The answer is no. In January a statement was released about what kind of team he would move to. The stipulations were; French speaking players and a team that doesn’t play the long ball to a big man. Add to that the fact that Liverpool will at best be playing in the Europa League; they are not even a contender.

Those two stipulations point directly at Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal. They have a large French contingent and the philosophy does not lead to long balls played up the pitch. Hazard would fit in instantly to the Arsenal style of play and effortlessly add more creativity and unpredictability. But this summer and at this point of his career and development Hazard would not benefit from a move.

Next season Hazard will be a massive part of Lille’s Champions League campaign and will start in all six group games regardless of the situation in the league. The need to be playing football at the highest competitive level would do wonders for him and is something that Hazard is well aware of. Since his breakthrough in the first team he has always showed to be a very mature player and one aware of the importance of making the right move.

“A club that plays good football – and does not kick and run pointlessly – is very appealing to me but if I had the desire to join a big club that, I would have gone by now.”


The beginning of March saw Hazard sign a one year extension to his contract, the second extension to the contract within a year. The deal keeps him at the club until 2015 and makes it very unlikely he will make a move this summer.

Before the contract was signed the rumours of a possible move had hit overdrive. The price being mentioned was around the €20-25m mark. A contract set to run till 2014 would have guaranteed Lille received close to €20 million if they held onto the player for an extra year. The question has to be asked why would the club offer and the player sign a deal if both parties were looking to make a move in five months time.

It would not be unlikely if the new contract had one or two clauses entered giving Hazard some guarantees for this and next summer. In 2012 it would be very surprising if Eden Hazard did not finish the summer away from France being paraded holding up a jersey from one of Europe’s elite clubs.

To protect the players’ interests it would not be a surprise if there was also a clause allowing him to leave if Lille failed to make the Champions League group stage, ensuring he played in Europe’s marque tournament even if Lille failed to qualify. Unfortunately Lille has always been a selling club, however with an asset as precious as Hazard they will want the best possible deal before letting him go.

The player and the club are making all the right noises which should lead to a quiet summer but we all know that there are never any guarantees in football. No one could have predicted the amount of money Liverpool would be willing to pay Newcastle for Andy Carroll in January. So nothing is set in stone to say that Hazard will be in Lille come the first game of next season.

To anyone looking at the situation without any agenda, it makes sense for the player to remain for one more year. Money talks more often than not, but for once it seems in Eden Hazard we have a player that lets his head and not his wallet dictate his future.

 

You can hear more of Andrew’s thoughts on French Football at his podcast “French Football Weekly”

 

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7 comments

Trevor

April 27th, 2011

Good article. But as you mentioned, nothing is written in stone. And with the entire transfer market being a gigantic jigsaw puzzle, nothing amazes me anymore.

As far as Arsenal goes, Wenger claims they need to strengthen their squad where needed. Which is a bold and highly unusual statement from a man who hardly ever talks about transfers.

The Arsenal legends are in a collective outcry, and the phrases that’ve been thrown around are, “experienced players”, “Winning Mentality”, “Lack of character” etc etc.

Bob Wilson going into detail about the “character” of the Arsenal side. Which btw, was a very interesting read. (mirror.co.uk)

I’m not sure Eden Hazard would fit the bill of the player we need right now.
But I’m equally unsure of whether or not Wenger has the time to wait another year before picking up the Lille wonderboy. Only to end up in a bidding war with the Catalan giants.

Furthermore, Samir Nasri has failed to sign a new deal with the Gunners and his form since february has been in a constant decline. His partnership with Cesc Fabregas doesn’t seem to work as his fine form was when Fabregas was out with injuries and Samir was the creative force in the Arsenal side.

We don’t know if Cesc will stay for another year, or what deal has been made. Will Kroenke decide to cash in on Cesc after the players late tantrum in the spanish newspapers.

The future of Andrei Arshavin is uncertain. But offloading the player seems highly unlikely as he has established himself as a fine “super-sub”. Still, should that happen, Hazard would be brought in as his replacement, as Hazard can play right and left side naturally.

My educated guess would be that if Cesc is let to. Nasri will stay on and drop into Cesc’s role and Hazard will be brought in as Nasri’s direct replacement.

If Nasri were to leave in the summer window the club would be forced to buy Hazard as they would be left without a class winger.

The only likely scenarios left to why we won’t buy Eden is:

Cesc, Nasri, Walcott and Arshavin all stay at the club for another season.

Then again, for those who have followed the trend at the club have noticed that Denilson and Rosicky have been benched and out of the team for some time. With Bendtner and Shava subbing for Walcott and Nasri.

Should Rosicky be sold this summer the chance of signing Eden Hazard would still be unlikely but Wenger might put his faith in Japanese Ryo Miyaichi (On loan to Dutch side Feyenoord), hailed as the new Henry and Ronaldinho. Deciding to recruit the player to the first team, provided he can get a work permit.

Though it looks like Wenger will cash in on Bendtner, Clichy and Denilson. With Rosicky, Squilacci and Almunia offloaded to mid-table european clubs. The main improvements will be made defensively.

Some Arsenal legends and insiders suggest the club should buy a world-class striker. And Ian Wright and Bob Wilson requesting “character” and “winning mentality” in the midfield, it’s anyone’s guess who we’ll actually end up buying.

My gut feeling still says come August, Eden Hazard will be an Arsenal player.

Andrew

April 27th, 2011

Hi Trevor, thanks so much for spending the time to write such a detailed comment.

As you said no one can rule out anyone moving and I am not naive enough to have blind faith that Hazard will stay. It seems right now the conditions would say he would stay for another year. If Arsenal do have somewhat of a fire sale and need to bring in replacements Wenger might then splash out and do his best to bring Eden to the club.

It’s going to be an interesting summer for Arsenal, but how many times has that been said and then the squad has not had an overhaul.

We will just have to wait and see.

Pacman

April 27th, 2011

Arsenal have to do all they can to buy Hazard!

April 27th, 2011

Good stuff. Hoping to see him in a non-French team sometime soon for the excessively selfish reason that it’s easier to watch the English/German/Italian/Spanish football in Scotland.

My only reservation about the recent signed extension(s) is this is often a device, or, gentleman’s agreement between club and player to drive up an expected transfer fee.

My feeling is at the end of the day if a “giant” club does come in with a concrete £15-20m+ offer, it’s likely he will go.

I also agree with alot of what Trevor has said that for Arsenal it depends on their own squad. But surely highest on the agenda for Arsene is a quality goalkeeper – if reports are to be believed he’s had big, big offers turned down last summer and watching Arsenal this season – yet AGAIN – some poor goalkeeping has relinquished crucial points. Much of the budget may go strengthening here.

Second on my list (depending on the Cesc/Nasri situation) would be a quality CB to compete/cover Djourou/Koscielny and then perhaps third would be that 20+ goal striker.

Given weaknesses in these areas will Hazard be an expensive luxury?

Andrew

April 27th, 2011

haha I do look forward to watching him in Sky Sports HD…but I can wait 12 months

April 27th, 2011

@Trevor – Sorry, but I really couldn’t disagree much more with what you’ve said!

Firstly – you say Nasri “failed to sign a new contract”. Uh, no – Wenger has said that talks will be continued when the season is finished. Nothing like discussing the future of your players to distract you in a title-race… The imminent (I assume) contract talks seem to be more a case of when, not if. Same goes to Clichy who has his flaws but is clearly rated by Wenger who has also implied that contract talks will be opened with Clichy and his agent, too.

Arshavin has dismissed rumours of him leaving despite the high and mighty Zenit St. Petersburg opening the door to him rather too wide. I think the “super-sub” nature you refer to is more a case of responding to being dropped than actually being an effective player coming off the bench. I may be wrong, though. He’s still quite inconsistent though his work-rate on the pitch is clearly improving.. Taking this into account I think Wenger would like to keep him but I wouldn’t be too surprised/disappointed to see him leave.

Ryo is 18 – Wilshere and Szczesny are very much exceptions rather than the rule of players breaking into the first XI at such a young age & there’s not much chance we can expect him to hold down that place. It would be foolish to sell his competition – Nasri & Arshavin (& Rosicky to an extent) withhout going into the market [And I'm one of those fans that thinks a big summer overhaul isn't needed]

Furthermore – your comments about Nasri & Cesc seem rather wide of the mark. Firstly, they’ve been brilliant when they’ve played together. I really disagree that Nasri’s slight drop in form is more to do with playing with one of the best midfielders in the world and less about being shifted onto the left-wing and getting injured (hamstring probs always efect performances of players some time after)

Secondly – Nasri won’t and can’t move into the ‘Cesc role’ unless that role is completely changed. These myths about Nasri fitting perfectly there are rubbish. He doesn’t have the 360 vision and immense passing ability of Fabregas. The role behind RvP requires more than just skill and pace and a decent finish.

Despite this “leader”/”winning mentality” crap – I think Hazard is exactly the kind of player Arsenal could do with. An in-cutting left-forward with French connections, pace, skill and an honest, but apparently not arrogant personality.

According to a lot of sources, though (including his agent, apparently) say that he’d prefer a move to Spain.. In which case I imagine Madrid will come-a-running quicker than Barcelona can say “cunts”. Barca don’t need him with Iniesta capable of the left-sided role, and Jeffren, Afellay, Pedro and Villa all apparently rotating.

RM have Di Maria for the LW and could probably do with some cover there.. I also think that they’ve got far more cash to splash… Especially if Barca go for Cesc (I think he’ll stay but I’m not putting all my eggs in one basket)

Great article, Andrew.

Joss.

(Editor of http://www.arsenalreport.com)

April 27th, 2011

@tictactic

We don’t need a GK. Fabianski was excellent pre-injury after a poor start and Szczesny is proving himself every week.

You also forget we have Vermaelen to provide cover/competition to Djourou and Kos.

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