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After their dominant performance in the 2014-15 Premier League season, many expected Chelsea to go on and defend their title with relative ease this campaign. However, that hasn’t been the case. Eight matches into the new season, Jose Mourinho’s men sit 16th in the division and are ten points behind leaders Manchester City.

There are a number of reasons why the defending champions have struggled this term but perhaps the most obvious explanation is simply that their top players have simply not performed in the early stages of the campaign. Nemanja Matic, John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic were all key components of their title-winning side but have all failed to make a positive impact so far this season.

Eden Hazard, meanwhile, has possibly been Chelsea’s most disappointing player this season. The 2014-15 PFA Player of the Year is underperforming and is struggling to cope with the epic pressure on his shoulders. When Blues striker Diego Costa was ruled out through injury last season, Hazard stepped up to the plate and led Chelsea to the Premier League title. Unfortunately for the Belgium winger, he’s failed to replicate last season’s form.

Mourinho hasn’t helped his cause. Towards the end of last season, the Portuguese labelled Hazard as ‘the third best player in the world’ and that added pressure appears to have got to the Belgian. Hazard has played every minute of Chelsea’s Premier League season so far but has failed to find the net and produced just two assists. In the absence of Costa, those statistics are simply not good enough – especially from such a talented star.

Whilst every Chelsea player is currently under significant levels of pressure, there is additional expectation on Hazard’s shoulders. The Belgium international needs a goal or two to kick-start his season but he just isn’t getting into dangerous, attacking areas of the field. Hazard looks incredibly low on confidence and the Blues will continue to disappoint as long as their star man is struggling for form.

Whether Blues fans are willing to admit it or not, Chelsea are in a crisis right now. Mourinho is making rash decisions that are incredibly un-Mourinho-like and the Blues are in danger of missing out on the top four unless they improve considerably in the coming months. However, even a fourth placed finish might not be enough to save the Portuguese. He’s received the public backing of the Chelsea board but he must take the pressure off his players.

Mourinho has blamed a number of individuals for their mistakes but it should be him who admits his own personal errors rather than placing the responsibility on his players. While he is yet to directly suggest that Hazard has been liable for Chelsea’s failures, he may turn on his star if he fails to find his best form. At the moment, the Blues boss cuts a desperate figure on the touchline and he is looking to blame anybody but himself at the club.

Ultimately, Hazard is the key to Chelsea’s success. When he’s purring, Chelsea are purring. The Belgian remains an exceptional talent but the Blues won’t get the best out of him unless the pressure is lifted off his and his team-mates shoulders. Right now, Chelsea’s players look like they’re walking on eggshells and are scared to attempt anything in case they make an error. The Portuguese must ensure that he protects his players from the media, supporters and other forms of negativity if the likes of Hazard, Matic and Ivanovic are to improve and regain their confidence.

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