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Eden Hazard

The conquerors of pressure - how Hazard and Chelsea overcame the heat to secure the Premier League title

16:36 GMT+3 23/05/2017
Eden Hazard
Goal and Sure have partnered to create the Pressure Index, the only way to measure how players are handling the stress of the most competitive league

Never in Premier League history had there been more pressure on the elite.

The top remains a closed shop but four has become six, an eight-point gap clearly splitting the league’s top clubs from the rest.

The pressure, then, came at the top, where big-spending, big clubs with top billing would battle it out for the coveted UEFA Champions League spots so vital to maintaining their place at the top table. It was a battle of the haves, played out on a battlefield where the have-nots are no longer welcome.

And with Antonio Conte, Mauricio Pochettino, Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp, Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho leading the fight, the Premier League was a who’s who of the world’s top managers.

Conte’s Chelsea led the way as they marched to the title. Their points tally of 93 was the second-highest seen in a Premier League season, and owed much to the resurgent form of Eden Hazard

The Belgium international scored 16 goals this season, his best return in a single campaign in the competition, and was the overall top performer with a score of 85/100 on the Goal Pressure Index, presented by Sure and powered by Opta data, which provides the first ever system to measure and rate a team and player’s performance under pressure.

The Goal Pressure Index uses more than 750,000 data points as well as factors including league position, point in the season and the opposition to calculate a rating out of 100 for every Premier League player every week.

He was joined by Nemanja Matic, Cesar Azpilicueta, N'Golo Kante, David Luiz, Gary Cahill and Diego Costa as Chelsea dominated the top 20 and were worthy winners.

Runners-up Tottenham were also well-represented as they ended the campaign with a goal difference of +60, the highest in Premier League history for a non-title winning side.

Spurs had three players in the top 10 of the Pressure Index seasonal scores, including Harry Kane who became only the fifth player to score 25-plus goals in two successive Premier League seasons.

That they ultimately missed out on the title was a huge disappointment, but they will no doubt find consolation in the fact that they finished above rivals Arsenal in the Premier League for the first time since 1994/95.

Liverpool, meanwhile, had only Georginio Wijnaldum in the top 20. The Reds were unbeaten in the Premier League against the top seven teams this season but time and again failed to deal with the pressure against lower opposition, winning just 15 of their 26 games against the rest.

Likewise, fifth-placed Arsenal had only Alexis Sanchez among the elite pressure performers. With the heat mounting on Wenger, they missed out on Champions League football for the first time in 20 years.

Their total of 75 points, however, would have been enough to secure a UCL place in 20 of the past 22 Premier League seasons.

Sixth-placed Manchester United assembled the most expensive squad in football history, with world-record signing Paul Pogba coming in third overall in what was a satisfactory first season back with the club, and they went on a 25-game unbeaten run - their longest-ever such streak in a single top-flight season.

Too many draws cost them Premier League-qualification for the UCL, but with a Europa League final on the horizon, all could soon be forgotten.

The Goal Pressure Index is presented by Sure, Official Partner of Chelsea FC, Everton FC and Southampton FC. Join the conversation on Twitter @Sure.