Hakim Ziyech was announced as a Chelsea player with a five-year deal back in February for a fee of €40 million plus possible bonuses to Ajax. The Morrocan international is Frank Lampard’s first signing as Chelsea boss. He has netted more than 20 goals in each of the last three seasons in Eredivisie.
Is the right-winger could enough to make an instant impact at the Stamford Bridge? Or is it going to be too much pressure in and outside of his club? Let’s check out what the 27-year-old can offer to Chelsea.
Who is Hakim Ziyech?
Born on March 19, 1993 in Dronten in the Netherlands, Ziyech made his first-team debut for Heerenveen in a Europa League qualifier against Rapid București back in 2012. There he went on to make his first team sheet in the Eredivisie league that same month. His improvement, and especially his record assists in a 3-3 draw against Ayax drew interest from clubs such as FC Twente.
Two years later, he signed a three-year deal at FC Twente where he continued his form and established himself as a leading player, becoming captain during 2015-16 season. The right-winger’s last season at FC Twente as the best in his career, registering 17 goals and 10 assists. After bagging 34 goals in just 76 appearances, Ziyech secured a £10.2million switch to Ajax in August 2016 where he became a top-class player.
Ziyech can use his left foot for finesse control, and he has shown techniques recently that have propelled him onto center stage of football. The Moroccan international was named to the UEFA Champions League squad of the season after helping Ajax to the 2018-19 semifinals despite not being as experienced as other top teams in the tournement. In addition, he has been capped 32 times for Morocco, scoring 14 goals.
What are the numbers saying?
Ziyech was one of the best players on the pitch when facing Chelsea in a 4-4 draw during November’s Champions League clash that might have become his audition day at the Stamford Bridge. The left-footed star tallied eight goals and 21 assists during the 2019-20 season for Ayax, but the overall numbers are what is interesting. According to Opta, Ziyech has been directly involved in 166 goals since his Eredivisie debut (79 goals & 87 assists), at least 36 more than any other player. His overall number of shots per game (SpG) is 3.9 and total assists is around 76.7% in just 2,208 minutes of play time in the all competitions.
However, it’s his creative intelligence that gives him his edge, as he has created 421 goal-scoring chances for teammates in the Dutch Eredivisie since his Ajax debut in September 2016. His service to his teammates is what makes him special; he has at least 10 assists in each of his previous six Eredivisie seasons. No other player has done so in more than two campaigns in the same period.
Since joining Ayax, no Eredivisie winger has more assists (51), shots (528), chances created (421), completed dribbles (288) or recoveries (752) than Ziyech. These numbers just show how important his role will be in the Blue shirt. With quality players around him, Ziyech has the skill to will break down defenses and somehow find that incisive pass for a teammate to put the ball in the back of the net.
Will he fit well at Chelsea?
The most frequent formations Frank Lampard used last season were 4-3-3, 3-4-3 and 4-2-3-1, when N’Golo Kanté was fit to play. With Willian going to Arsenal, Pedro going to Roma, and Timo Werner coming to the front-line, Ziyech’s role becomes even more important. Since the EPL’s Restart, Chelsea’s best player has been Christian Pulisic. Rumors of Kai Havertz joining the Blues are still the talk of the town, which would dramatically improve the Chelsea squad.
Ziyech is a natural winger who prefers to run wide down the right-hand side. His ability to create space to get the ball on his feet is where he accommodates time for teammates to make runs for the final ball pass, but he can just simply cut inside from a wide position to target the goal directly. He brings back to the Blues the threat once provided by Arjen Robben.
Another ability that he possess is being unpredictable, to zig when another player would zag, and that is where his intelligence shows. At a most obvious moment for an easy pass that draws out a defender, Ziyech knows how to switch the pace of the ball and make a risky final-third pass to shake the entire formation of an opponent. And in congested areas, he can settle the ball swiftly to provide a teammate with service to a well timed run.
However, his movement with the ball during the game all depends on his relationship with his teams’ right-backs. Ayax right backs, Noussair Mazraoui and Sergino Dest, played a massive role for Ziyech to become an important player at the Johan Cruijff ArenA. Their sense of overlapping when necessary releases Ziyech to cut inside or staying at the edge of the box for a chance. Without the run of the right back creating space, Ziyech’s attack will not be as flexible.
With Chelsea’s captain Cesar Azpilicueta in his 30s, the Moroccan winger has to develop a similar relationship with the young Reece James, but Azpilicueta has proven to be good enough this past season with the attacking width of crosses from a slightly withdrawn position. Whoever plays as the right back, he will need to provide overlapping runs beyond Ziyech. His preffered position is the right-hand side of the pitch, but could also switch sides to a number ten role when Frank Lampard chooses a 4-2-3-1 formation. Players such as Mason Mount, Pulisic and Werner prefer asking for the ball at the edge of the box or making those run-in-behind tactic to create space for a threating ball. Through Ziyech and a winger occupying wider positions such as Callum Hudson-Odoi, further support from an advancing full-back would mean increased options in the final third.
Ziyech is one of the few young footballers whose finesse and amazing technique have been world-class to make Chelsea reach out. The winger is 27, just reaching his peak. His agility, balance and positional control are three assets that Chelsea have missed since the departure of Eden Hazard last summer. However, to exploit his talent, Chelsea need top-shelf teammates around him; the likes of Timo Werner, Christian Pulisic and possibly the rumored Kai Havertz should provide just that.
In FPL, I believe his price should start reasonably, as the highest new-boy price tags are usually reserved for strikers like Werner. Ziyech can be the one providing assists for fun if Werner tops his confidence scoring goals.
Frank Lampard deserves credit for picking quality players with necessary experience. Who won’t be excited to see link-up play among a Pulisic-Werner-Ziyech front three?
All stats used from opta, and whoscored.com
What do you think about Hakim Ziyech’s debut EPL season? Will he take some time to adjust? Or will his quality teammates help him make it look easy? Are you going to add him in your fantasy team? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments below!