Skilled wingers with a lot of pace are especially the need of the hour with defences growing ever tighter. Eden Hazard and Philippe Coutinho probably rank as the two best wingers in the Premier League right now. The former has managed to win the PFA Player of the Year title to acknowledge his progress, while Philippe Coutinho came very close during the same year. Both are expected to renew rivalry in the race for the PFA Player of the Year 2016-17 campaign.
Hazard was one of the sought-after players when he decided to sign for Chelsea in 2012. The blues had to pay a hefty £35 million in order to secure his services, but it already has the signs of money being well spent. Coutinho was more of a gamble by Liverpool; Inter Milan were prepared to offload the Brazilian after five years. The Brazilian did not seem to do have made the grade, but Inter were still able to make £8.5 million from his sale. Now, though, Liverpool will not consider selling him even at £50 million. Such has been the rise of the player to great heights; he has been nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year award in consecutive seasons but has failed to win the title.
Coutinho’s earlier style of play used to do depend a lot on bringing others into the game, but of late, he has been more focused on scoring goals himself. After scoring 12 goals in 43 appearances last season, Coutinho has managed to find another gear and has scored 4 in seven games. A major reason for the jump in statistics is that Coutinho is managing to hold onto the ball better. The number of times he was dispossessed per game has come down (2.2 to 1.2) and it is a similar story with the number of bad touches in a match (2 to 0.8). It has enabled him to make more use of the ball in the final third.
Hazard endured one of the worst campaigns in recent memory after scoring just four goals in close to 2200 minutes of action. Under Antonio Conte, though, he has been a player reborn. The Italian has been using Hazard in a more advanced role largely by reducing his defensive duties. His statistic of three shots per game is the highest so far in his Chelsea career. Even though he has scored only two goals in six games, Hazard has always stated that his intention is to help his teammates rather than score himself.
Talking in terms of passing, both the players have given each other a run for their money. The Chelsea’s talisman possesses a passing accuracy of 84%, while the Liverpool’s gem possesses 85% (in six games). But the Belgian is miles ahead of the Brazilian in terms of defending or pressing, as he has won 67% of his average duels, while Coutinho has only won 45%.
Hazard and Coutinho are excellent wingers, separated by style of play. They are far more important to their respective teams than stats suggest.