This scout report will better inform the reader of Conor Hazard’s strengths and weaknesses. It will provide and make use of his statistics from this season. By doing so, we can develop an objective foundation that will allow for an accurate tactical analysis and evaluation of his ability.
Competition is rife for the number one spot at Celtic since Fraser Forster’s departure back to his parent EPL club, Southampton. Club prospect Hazard (22), has already clocked minutes up for the senior team as they get their pre-season preparations underway. Who is he, and, more importantly, how good is he? This report will attempt to answer both of those questions.
Hazard’s last campaign started relatively similar to this year – grabbing a clean sheet against a Ligue 1 French outfit. Shortly after, we saw Hazard selected by ex-under 21 Northern Ireland manager, Ian Baraclough, to represent his country at the UEFA U21 Championships. Despite failure to progress, he achieved two clean sheets in four games. At club level, there was little chance of game time at Celtic Park, given Forster’s acquisition. As a result, Hazard went out to Dundee FC on loan. In a season that ultimately never was, Dundee FC finished third. They struggled in the first half of the season. However, a change in tactics and good recruitment meant Dundee went unbeaten in six games, with their loanee goalkeeper collecting six clean sheets and amassing a total of 1425 minutes.
Northern Ireland’s lack of a quality goalkeeper, not to mention their recent appointment of Baraclough as manager of the senior national team, means that Hazard not only has a realistic fight at club level but also at international level. So, without further ado, let’s begin our analysis.
The first area we will analyse is his shot-stopping ability. The skills that one measures in this department are as follows: reflexes, composure, concentration, positioning, rushing out and anticipation. Standing at an intimidating height of 1.98 metres, Hazard’s blend of height, reach and agility have helped him amass an impressive 80% save rate.
The chart above depicts arguably the top five goalkeepers in the SPFL, plus Hazard. The dots illustrate each goalkeeper, labelled with a name and number of clean sheets. Furthermore, represented on its axes are save percentage and shots against per 90. The best shot-stoppers from the graph above include Fraser Forster from Celtic, Laurențiu Brănescu, Kilmarnock’s loanee from Juventus, and Hazard.
However, considering the context, the Northern Irish international played significantly fewer games with a team that didn’t concede many shots as they competed for promotion. Therefore, whilst it’s an impressive record, had he played as many games as the others, one wonders if it would still be as good? With that in mind, let’s delve a little deeper into his shot-stopping skills, and analyse his expected goals against statistics.
The bar chart above includes the top four goalkeepers from the SPFL, plus Hazard. The bars depict goals conceded. The dots provide a reference to the xG against statistic. Let’s consider Mark Gillespie. He let in the most goals last season, 38 to be exact, however, it would be unfair to label him as the worst goalkeeper because of that statistic alone. Why? The players around him may be considerably weaker than other teams. Therefore, if we compare his total goals against to the xG against we can get an objective look at how good he is at shot-stopping. In this case, Gillespie overperformed, because his expected goal against value was 41.17 goals.
Using this reasoning, we’re able to identify how successful Hazard was last season. Reminder, he played significantly fewer games, thus his goal against total is low. However, his xG against was 15.27 goals this season. Comparing that to the reality, nine, we can determine he overperformed, and saved more than what was expected of him.
Statistics are great, although nothing compares to technique. The pictures above show a three-stage technical breakdown that highlights why Hazard recorded a high save percentage. In the first picture, Dundee’s loanee shuffles his feet and sets himself up for the shot. As a result, he’s balanced, ready and positioned correctly to react to the attempt.
In the second picture, we skip a millisecond forward. Notice Hazard’s composure, and he maintains a robust vertical posture that enforces his contact with the ball. In the lower of the three clips, we can see how his hands extend to meet the ball, deflecting it high and wide of any potential threats in the box. As a whole, this clip demonstrates a dependable, sharp and confident goalkeeper.
The reader should also be aware of his penalty saves. With a lack of evidence, it would be outlandish to state that Hazard is a consistent penalty saver. However, he has proven this season to be capable of stopping penalties.
Command of the 18-yard box
Goalkeepers need to dominate and command their box. This report will consider the following skills: catch success, one-on-ones, aerial reach, rushing out, communication and decisions.
Let’s take a look at his aerial dominance in the 18-yard box. The picture above demonstrates Hazard’s readiness on the line. There are several positive technical points to highlight in this scenario. Firstly, note his square-on stance, which allows him to see both the ball and the onrushing attackers. Next, note how he manages his weight distribution. Standing on the balls of his feet, with a gradual forward lean, enables him to attack the ball in the air at speed. His elongated frame, accompanied with an extensive reach, favour the likelihood of a successful punch or catch.
One weakness of his, in this department, is communication. It was highlighted during set-pieces this season, as he conceded four. Another weakness is his inconsistent decisions to come off the line and attack the ball. However, these skills go hand in hand with confidence, experience and practice. It is not an unachievable target, if it is a target of Hazard’s.
Commanding the 18-yard box also takes place on the ground, manifesting itself in one-v-one duels. Above, Hazard uses his enormous figure to intimidate the breakaway attacker, as well as limiting the spaces in the goal to shoot at. Furthermore, he avoids going to ground early. As a result, he shifts the pressure onto the attacker, and they’re now the ones that have to make the decision first.
Let’s examine his technique. Firstly, Hazard’s quick reflexes work against those that shoot. Secondly, by remaining upright, he can transfer his weight faster and dive at the feet of those that attempt to dribble around him. In the second picture, Hazard leads by example in his box, recovering quickly and thinking about the next phase of play before most others on the pitch.
Regardless of the teams’ style of play, a goalkeeper that displays a great technique and accuracy when distributing is and can be an extremely significant quality. Therefore, it will be included and evaluated in this report. It contains skills such as kicking, passing, vision, throwing and first touch.
Broken down above is passing, in its most simplistic form – accuracy. The diagram displays passing accuracy as a whole, then splits it into two distances: short and long. Hazard succeeds in making 76% of his passes per game, as well as completing 94% of his short passes. When passing to a target further away (a ground pass longer than 45 metres or a high pass longer than 25 metres), he completed 66% of them.
You may be wondering whether these stats are any good. Therefore, see the bar chart below, which compares these stats with the top five distributors in the SPFL.
The chart above suggests that Hazard has room to improve if he wishes to break into the top five distributors in the league. In general, his passing accuracy is down 5%, as well as his shot to medium-ranged passing, which is down 2%. Indeed, he struggles to play off his weaker right foot. However, his 66% accuracy across a long-range is a promising sign, as it is the hardest of the two to complete in most cases.
It’s also an extremely relevant skill in the modern game, because, currently, the most successful teams in world football utilise speedy wingers and counter-attacks. When blessed with a goalkeeper that can distribute play over longer ranges, one can expect to create chances on the break more often.
The pictures above display examples of Hazard’s efficient long-ranged passing ability. In the first picture, the Dundee stopper earns himself a second assist, as he plays a low long-ranged pass into his attacking midfielder’s feet. Such was the preciseness of the pass, that it allowed Paul McGowan to flick it on first time, between the opposition’s backline, leading to a goal. The second example shows Hazard completing a lofted long pass. He hits it so well that the only player to touch the ball after him is the shooter, Kane Hemmings.
During the 2019/20 campaign, Hazard has managed to consolidate his starting eleven spot at Dundee. His positioning and posture mimic that of a traditional orthodox European goalkeeper. As a result, he’s particularly good at shot-stopping and one-on-ones. However, this report has highlighted a need to improve his ability to command the box, more specifically using assertiveness and intellect to time and correctly win the ball in the air when he comes off his line. Another strength that this report has highlighted is his extended passing ability.
At 22-years-old, and with a senior Northern Ireland cap already in the bag, Hazard will be fully aware of the carrot dangling in front of him. If he can continue his development through this coming season, it will only be a matter of time before Baraclough gives him an opportunity to claim the number one spot. What happens after that is up to him.