PORTO, PORTUGAL - FEBRUARY 16: Referee Cuneyt Cakir steps in between Mario Balotelli of Manchester City and Hulk of FC Porto during the UEFA Europa League round of 32 first leg match between FC Porto and Manchester City at Estadio do Dragao on February 16, 2012 in Porto, Portugal. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
With the signing of one of Europe's hottest young talents now all but confirmed, Chelsea fans seem to be moving their thoughts on to what the club needs to do next. Marko Marin and Eden Hazard have both been added to the fold, but clearly there will still be more additions to the roster as at least three Chelsea regulars are set to depart this summer. The popular rumor at the moment is that Hulk will be the next attacking addition to the Chelsea squad, but with the addition of Eden Hazard there is some question as to why we'd still be looking at him. With that in mind, I thought I'd take a closer look at what the pair bring to the table to see what conclusions we might draw.
First of all, let's look at where they both play. Hulk has been primarily on the right wing in a 4-3-3 system for the bulk of the last two seasons. He's stronger on his left foot, and with his tremendous ability to shoot the ball he's the prototype "inverted winger" that is becoming so popular around Europe recently. Hazard spent the majority of this season on the left wing (more of a 4-2-3-1 than a 4-3-3, but he's played in both formations), and his goalscoring numbers took a large swing upwards with the move. That's likely due in part to his preference to shoot with his right foot, but also largely due to improved finishing on the whole. Both make excellent inverted wingers though, so they should fit on the pitch at the same time.
Both bring some degree of positional flexibility to the table as well. Hulk has a bit of experience on the left, but he's nowhere near as strong there as he is on the right hand side. He does have some experience playing centrally though, and I'm of the belief that he's somewhat underrated in that area of the pitch. His ability to with the ball at his feet and shooting from distance combined with his physical tools make him the ideal inverted winger, but those physical tools and finishing ability lend themselves very well to playing center forward (or in a striker pairing) as well. Hulk is not strictly a right winger, and it wouldn't be absurd to believe he'd flourish in a more central role with a more dangerous midfield than his early Porto teams had.
Hazard, on the other hand, has excelled already in several other roles. He was named Ligue 1 young player of the year twice and it's overall player of the year once playing primarily as a right wing. He's far more of a traditional winger when lined up on the right, which would theoretically stretch the defense for whomever was playing centrally. This would also lend itself well to his strongest skill, his fantastic ability to run at full speed with the ball at his feet. He also played the bulk of the run in to this season as a central player, and he looked just as good as he did on the wing. Hazard could feasibly play in any forward role in the 4-2-3-1, 4-1-3-2, as either wide midfielder in a 4-4-2, or on either wing or an advanced central midfield role of a 4-3-3. The versatility he provides will go a long way in allowing us to rotate the squad from the start, and hopefully that will lead to a rested and more effective Juan Mata at the end of next season.
At this point I'd have to believe that signing Hulk would more or less finish our purchasing on established attacking players this summer, although there may still be some additions to the defense or central midfield to be looked at. While the two attackers may not make us the immediate favorites to retain the Champions League (it still hasn't sunk in) or to win the Premier League, it certainly makes us a viable candidate to win either or both as our depth will be nothing short of outstanding up front. If nothing else, top 4 should no longer be in question for the next season as none of Tottenham, Newcastle, or Arsenal should be able to add anything close to the type of quality we'd be injecting into our squad. Who knows, those two might even be enough that we'll see Fernando Torres start to score again...