Chelsea

Has there been a Hakim Ziyech-shaped hole in Chelsea’s attack so far this season?

The leaky nature of Chelsea’s defence has been addressed by Frank Lampard, now the attack needs to gel

 
6:30pm on Friday 6th November 2020
By
Cameron Smith

With the additions of Edouard Mendy, Thiago Silva, and Ben Chilwell, Chelsea now look more solid at the back, but the attack has suffered, step forward Hakim Ziyech.

His integration into the side was delayed by a knee injury that was picked up in the pre-season friendly against Brighton, but Ziyech is back.

A £36m signing from Ajax in the summer, Ziyech went slightly under the radar thanks to the acquisitions of Timo Werner, and Kai Havertz, but his ingenuity in the final third will be priceless for the Blues.

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A creative spark, and a difference-maker, Ziyech has the quality and the magic to unlock the door of any defence across Europe, something he has displayed countless times for Ajax.

It’s Ziyech’s unpredictability that gives him the edge over more traditional wingers, and whilst he lacks raw pace, he more than makes up for it with his close control and vision.

Consecutive 0-0 draws against Sevilla and Manchester United, the latter in which the Blues managed just one shot on target, raised concerns over the efficiency of Chelsea’s expensive attack.

Enter Hakim Ziyech.

The Moroccan was pivotal in both the 0-4 rout of Krasnador, and the 0-3 win over Burnley on Saturday, scoring two and assisting one in the space of a week, becoming the first Chelsea player to score in his first two starts for the club since Diego Costa back in 2014.

27 yrs - W, AM (R) - Chelsea
77 
Defending
Creative
Passing
Attacking
Shooting
Decisive
Aerials
Physical
JavaScript chart by amChartsLDefendingCreativePassingAttackingShootingDecisiveAerialsPhysical10-10-5051015100%
100
Played matches
3
1
1
Shots P90
0.90
Shots On target P90
0.90
Dribbles P90
0.00
Final third passes P90
26.10

The scary thing is, Ziyech has barely got started.

In the battering of Burnley, Ziyech managed just one shot all game (his goal), one key pass and zero dribbles, with his xG total just 0.04.

He’s far from top form and fitness, and he’s still producing impressive output.

Those underlying numbers look even worse when you consider how he performed in the Netherlands.

His Time at Ajax

Flair, creativity, genius, the Eredivisie was Ziyech’s paradise.

He made the Dutch league look like a walk in the park, delivering clutch performances week-in, week-out to solidify the dynasty that Ajax hold within the country.

Arjen Robben’s trademark 'cut inside and shoot' was one of football’s greatest sights, and Dutch fans will know that Ziyech does it to a similar effect, but also has a disguised pass or a switch of play in his locker.

A midfield master, a mercurial talent, Ziyech was subject to scapegoating following his move to Ajax from fellow Eredivisie side FC Twente back in 2016.

Reports of smoking, drinking and missing training from his Heerenveen days resurfaced, but he got his head down and did his talking on the pitch, contributing 18 goals and assists in his first league campaign in the capital.

Growing into the role of the league’s most dangerous attacker, Ziyech rose to prominence on the world stage once Erik ten Hag rolled onto the scene at Ajax.

The appointment of Ten Hag, and his adoption of the infamous Ajax philosophy played into Ziyech’s hands perfectly, who, along with the rest of the squad, thrust himself into the notebooks of scouts from Europe’s elite under the Dutch manager.

For four consecutive seasons (2016/17 to 2019/20) Ziyech took the most shots per 90 in the Eredivisie, of players to play over 1000 minutes, and whilst this may arise doubts that he is a shoot-on-sight type of player, in the mould of a Hakan Calhanoglu, he also managed the most key passes per 90 (using the same metric) for his final four years in the Netherlands.

27 yrs - W, AM (R) - Chelsea
77 
Defending
Creative
Passing
Attacking
Shooting
Decisive
Aerials
Physical
JavaScript chart by amChartsLDefendingCreativePassingAttackingShootingDecisiveAerialsPhysical10-10-5051015100%
1619
Played matches
21
6
13
Shots P90
4.95
Shots On target P90
1.73
Dribbles P90
3.01
Touches in box opp P90
5.18

That’s incredible, and also displays why his numbers against Burnley were fairly surprising.

However, once he settles into the league and regains full fitness, Ziyech will be a problem for every defense he faces.

With 18 or more goal contributions in each of the past seven seasons in the Eredivisie, a tally no Chelsea player bettered last season, the Blues have added serious firepower to an already dangerous attacking lineup.

A creator, and a goalscorer, Chelsea have a special, special player on their hands.

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