Chelsea’s Moroccan midfielder Hakim Ziyech (L) vies with Brighton’s English midfielder Solly March and Brighton’s Belgian midfielder Leandro Trossard (R) as socially distanced fans watch from the stands during the pre-season friendly football match between Brighton and Hove Albion and Chelsea at the American Express Community Stadium in Brighton, southern England on August 29, 2020. – The game is a ‘pilot’ event where a small number of fans will be present on a socially-distanced basis. The aim is to get fans back into stadiums in the Premier League by October. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP) (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images)
The talk of the town suggests that in the eyes of many, this is Chelsea’s most exciting transfer window in the last decade—if not ever. It’s easy to focus all of the attention on the newest, shiniest toy in the chest—a limited edition Kai Havertz, at the moment—but let’s not lose admiration for the catalyst for the retooling.
When the Blues failed to sign anybody in the January transfer window after having their ban uplifted, fans were fuming. Then, Hakim Ziyech was announced as a Chelsea player back in February and all of the bitterness subsided. Due to the fact the transfer was made six months ago, along with a host of other signings, Ziyech often falls victim of being undervalued by the supporters. It’s about time we as a fan base begin to appreciate the Moroccan magician because he may very well be Chelsea’s best player this season.
Over the course of the last two years, Chelsea has lost a majority of its production for the better part of the last decade out wide. Eden Hazard’s departure last season left a gap in the team that was ultimately filled in part by Christian Pulisic. However, unless somebody like Neymar or Kylian Mbappe was to join the Blues, it was always going to take multiple players to make up for the lost productivity. Factor in the removal of Pedro and Willian over the past month and the Blues had a lot of ground to cover.
Luckily a wonderful piece of business by Frank Lampard and the Chelsea board ensured the Blues were able to not only fill that gap, but address a key need, as well. Stamford Bridge has been the home to a number of fantastic offensive players and sides over the years, but the Blues’ attacking production began becoming more and more centered around one playmaker as the new decade drew closer. The one-sided, dull offensive style peaked during Hazard’s final season with the Belgian scoring 21 goals and tallying 17 assists.
Chelsea not only needed more playmakers in the squad, but it seriously lacked a left-footed attacking individual. The Blues have struggled in that department since Juan Mata left the club in 2014. Furthermore, one must go back to 2007 to discover the last time an elite left-footed right winger graced the grass at the Bridge (Arjen Robben). Ziyech’s arrival signifies the dawn of a new era of not only left-footed wingers, but also a rebranded attack.
However, it’s crucial to note that simply being left-footed is not Ziyech’s calling. The Moroccan international is known for his sublime passing ability, something put on display in the Blues’ first pre-season friendly against Brighton. Ziyech’s ability to pick out the runs of his teammates with perfect precision is unlike anything Chelsea has seen in years. He is also known for his brilliant footballing mind, awareness and vision.
Ziyech’s attributes—both mental and physical—will play a big part in deciding how successful the Blues are this season. As Lampard begins to mold the side to play his ideal style of football, he’ll often rely on the versatile winger to dictate and distribute. No matter the role Ziyech is asked to play—whether it be as a winger or a No. 10—the veteran will surely be up for the challenge.
While some Chelsea fans will spend much of their day drooling over Timo Werner, Havertz or any other world class signing that turns up at Cobham, let’s not forget to send some love Ziyech’s way. The winger is going to be crucial in the Blues’ success this season and although he doesn’t score as many goals as the rest of the shiny, new additions, he’s going to keep the wheels turning.
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