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Andrew Thompson writes a detailed scouting report about Thorgan Hazard, the Borussia Monchengladbach and Belgium midfielder.
It is difficult to run out of superlatives when discussing the Belgian youth football pipeline over the last few years – it is one of the most successful hotbeds for rising talent in Europe without question, and one that shows no signs of slowing down in the coming years. While it is tempting to rattle off countless names of the nation’s best and brightest currently starring on the biggest stages across the continent, I have often written about the next wave of talent to emerge into their own spotlight, a trend that will continue here.
There isn’t a football fan in the world who is not familiar with Eden Hazard. Though Kevin De Bruyne and a few other Belgians are making major splashes at the highest level of club football, Hazard is often referred to as the golden boy in this golden generation of a country who was constantly overshadowed by their Oranje neighbors across the border. But this isn’t about Eden, it is about his little brother Thorgan, second son in the Hazard family of footballers. Though Eden is the one getting all the praise, it could finally be time for Thorgan to have his say.
Born in the Wallonian city of La Louviere in 1993, Thorgan was born to Thierry and Carine Hazard, both of whom were footballers who then became Physical Education teachers – a sporting family if there ever was one.
Talent Radar Accolades:
Appearance in Talent Radar’s 100 Best Young Players to Watch in 2014
Thorgan began his footballing education at the tender age of five a Royal Stade Brainois, staying closer to home to get his feet wet so to speak. At age ten he moved on to AFC Tubize, following older brother Eden in climbing up the lower rungs of the Belgian youth system. It was at this point in his career, after completing four years at Tubize, that his father allowed him to move to French-side RC Lens in 2007, in the hopes that the more well established French system (during this period, the Belgian youth system was not what it is today) would be better for his development, in the same fashion that it was hoped that Eden would take on at rivals LOSC Lille. After showing well for the Lens U-16 side which also featured the likes of Geoffrey Kondogbia and Raphael Varane, Hazard would sign his first professional contract in 2010. A year later, he would be promoted to the first-team, and he would go on to make fourteen appearances during the 2011-12 Lique 1 campaign.
Thorgan would yet again follow Eden to a new club, this time to English financial giants Chelsea. He would go on to only ever make one appearance for the Blues, before spending two very successful years on loan at Belgian side Zulte Waregem from 2012-14, scoring 20 goals and registering 30 assists in 90 total appearances, including winning the Belgian Player of the Year award in 2014. Another loan spell away from London would follow, after Thorgan was chucked out to Bundesliga outfit Borussia Monchengladbach for the 2014-15 campaign – Hazard would go on to register 5 goals and 10 assists in 41 total appearances, which promoted the German club to buy him outright in the summer of 2015 for just 6 million Euro’s.
His first full season at Borussia-Park was underwhelming, and Hazard only found the back of the net 6 times and added a further 6 assists in 36 outings across all competitions. However, his start to the current campaign consists of the types of performances that he is capable of – 6 goals and 3 assists in just 7 appearances in all competitions at the time of writing has seen Hazard propel himself up the pecking order under Andre Schubert. This could very well be the season where he announces himself on a bigger stage as a talent to be reckoned with.
In simple terms, his similar looks to Eden are no coincidence – Thorgan plays a style akin to his big brother. But considering the fact that this is a scouting report, naturally I cannot just leave it there and move on.
Bigger than his elder sibling but still not physically imposing, Hazard lives and breathes for the ball at his feet. Capable of taking his man on with strong technical ability or beating them with pace, Thorgan has a winger’s mentality in the center of the park. Able to slot into the number ten role as well as being an effective second-striker, he’s direct, possessing an ability to make the right pass at the right time and even adds defensive duties to his dossier.
Though he can be deployed in a tactical schematic that calls for possession and build up, where he can look to break a compact side down either with the right pass or by being direct and beating his marker to create space, Thorgan excels in a counter-attacking role. He doesn’t create a ton of chances per ninety-minutes (1.05 currently this season), but his movement through the channels in the final third often either allows other to pull the strings, or it puts him into a position further forward where just one pass can make the difference.
This aspect of his game shone through during his time in Belgium, where his 30 assists so often came from a floated cross or a low driven ball across the face of goal. His real asset, however, is his goal scorers’ instinct in the final third. Gladbach this season have deployed a 3-4-1-2 with Hazard alongside Raffael up front, with Lars Stindl behind them. While he may not be an out an out striker, he can often be spotted making a run off the shoulder of his Brazilian attacking partner, or swapping roles with Stindl when going forward and popping up down the right-hand side to look for that killer cross into the area or to make a diagonal run at goal.
For all his strengths in attacking areas of the park (and even without the ball in a defensive posture), Hazard doesn’t come without faults. While he does put in an effort on the defensive side of the ball, he averages 2.63 fouls/90min this season, bringing his discipline and ability in the tackle a bit more under the microscope. Additionally, for a player tasked with being one of the forward most two players on the pitch, especially in a side who are multifaceted in a tactical sense, Hazard is not fantastic in the air, winning just 50% of his aerial duels early doors this campaign. Though it may be a tough ask of a player who is not of the physical build required to be more dominant when off the ground, the ability to knock the ball down for a teammate or win back possession after a goal kick is of some importance in a system that relies on two forwards. His weaknesses by no means kill off his game, but against certain opponents they can be ruthlessly exposed in ways that could harm Gladbach’s chances of taking all three points.
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