Chelsea‘s curtailed 2019/20 season has been an impressive one to date. With such a young squad, the Blues occupy the fourth Champions League spot in the Premier League and have profited from the inconsistency of their rivals. But there is a sense that this is just the beginning for manager Frank Lampard, and the signing of Hakim Ziyech proves that this is a team that should only get stronger.
Hakim Ziyech Can Have a Big Impact at Chelsea Next Season
Ziyech was signed by Chelsea for £33.3 million in February and will arrive at Stamford Bridge in the summer. He is seen by many as the club’s replacement for Eden Hazard, who departed for Real Madrid last summer for a fee of up to £130 million. Replacing the Belgian was a priority that was consistently hammered home by Lampard. Chelsea need creation and Ziyech brings exactly that.
While Mateo Kovacic and Mason Mount have both enjoyed promising seasons, the former has only two goals and three assists in all competitions this season, while the latter’s form has dropped off in the second part of the campaign. Throw in Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s injury problems, Ross Barkley’s inconsistencies and the fact that Pedro and Willian are set to leave in the summer and it is easy to see why Lampard was keen to bring in a proven, creative playmaker.
Although Chelsea require depth when it comes to strikers, Tammy Abraham has proven to be a success with 13 goals in the Premier League. However, he is lacking support and the sources of goals and assists elsewhere is a worry. The next highest number of league goals by a Blues player this season is five (Mount and Christian Pulisic), while no player has registered more than five assists and ten big chances created.
Chelsea and Lampard will hope that Ziyech will change that. No player has created more chances or notched more assists in the Eredivisie over the past three seasons than the Moroccan. This season, he has six league goals and only Dusan Tadic has more assists than the 26-year-old (12). Furthermore, no player has made more key passes than Ziyech’s 78.
It is not just the creative side that made Ziyech such a tempting option for Chelsea. The playmaker has built a reputation as a fierce striker of the ball, scoring some memorable goals from long distance, with his curling free-kick at Stamford Bridge and his sensational strike against Valencia in the Champions League this season both standout efforts.
Ziyech’s preference for shooting from distance is also a major factor in his attacking influence. In the Eredivisie this season, no player has had more shots from outside the penalty box (58) and it was the same story last season (97 shots outside the box), as well as in 2017/18 (121). This should add even more firepower to a Chelsea side which ranks second for total shots (481) in the Premier League this season.
“Ziyech has got everything,” former Blues striker Tony Cascarino told TalkSport. “He’s a bit like Riyad Mahrez – he can dribble and go past you, he’s quite direct, he’s a great set piece taker, he has a fantastic assist record, he just sees passes. He’s just got everything in the game.
“I think he’s one hell of a talent and Chelsea would be very, very lucky to get him. He destroyed Real Madrid last year; he really played a big part in Ajax getting the better of Real at the Bernabeu. He’s a real talent who I think would be a fantastic addition to Chelsea.”
Another attractive feature of Ziyech’s game is that he is versatile. The Moroccan can play as a No 10 but usually plays on the right-wing. He likes to cut in from positions on the right and use his favoured left foot for shooting opportunities or to create chances. For those reasons, Ajax boss Erik ten Hag has favoured Ziyech in a wide birth.
Many will be skeptical given the quality of the Eredivise but Ziyech has not just been impressive domestically. He played an instrumental role in the club’s sensational run to the 2019 Champions League semi-finals, scoring in both the home and away legs of the last-16 victory against Real Madrid, proving influential in the quarter-final against Juventus and scoring in the second-leg at home to Tottenham.
Last season, Ziyech was the eighth-most creative player in the Champions League, while only Lionel Messi (35) and Neymar (32) completed more dribbles than his 31. He took his form into this season’s competition, producing eye-catching displays in the group stage including at Stamford Bridge in November. Ajax may have dropped out of the Champions League and now out of Europe altogether but Ziyech has already proven his qualities at the highest level.
With Kovacic, Mount, Loftus-Cheek and Barkley all vying for the central attacking position in his side, the likelihood is that Lampard will deploy Ziyech on his favoured right-hand side, with Callum Hudson-Odoi providing healthy competition and depth. Ziyech’s quality from set-pieces, too, means that he could be set to take over duties from Willian after the Brazilian’s summer departure.
Ziyech is a player of many talents and he now has the opportunity to deploy his skills in the Premier League. Lampard’s building job is well underway and his latest signing could well prove to be one of his best.