Hakim Ziyech’s Impressive Start at Chelsea

Attacking Moroccan Hakim Ziyech joined from Ajax for £35 million in July. He was one of a few players signed to strengthen Chelsea’s attack. However, Ziyech’s early impact has been the greatest of the lot so far this season.

Back in July, Phil Neville noted that the one thing Chelsea needed to address was the lack of creativity in the middle. Neville suggested Christian Pulisic as the solution. However early on in this season, Ziyech has stepped up into the role.

Ziyech missed the first few matches of the season with a knee injury, though he has made four Premier League and three Champions League appearances since returning. In his two Premier League starts, the Moroccan has already made three assists and scored one goal on the way to staking his claim on the right sided attacking role.

The 4-1 win against Sheffield United was Ziyech’s first full 90’ for Chelsea, and it was his first player of the match award.

Two assists in a player of the match performance from Ziyech. A dominant display looks to be the start of something bigger. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED: THE INDEPENDENT

Comparison

Throughout the early stages of the season, Chelsea has run several players in creative attacking roles. Kai Havertz, Mason Mount, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Christian Pulisic have all had starts.

Mount (86.5%), Havertz (86.7%) and Hudson Odoi’s (88.4%) passing accuracy is all comparable, with Ziyech (78.9%) just behind and Pulisic (63%) well down.

Where Ziyech stands out from the group is in the variety of his passing. Ziyech’s average of two key passes per 90’ is only bettered by full back Ben Chilwell (2.2). Ziyech has also been able to cross into the box at rates more similar to full backs Chilwell and Reece James, rather than the other attackers.

Ziyech’s numbers compare well against the best attacking midfielders from across the Premier League too. Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne has three assists in six matches with a passing accuracy of 79.1%. Though he has been better in the Champions League.

Manchester United’s Portuguese attacker Bruno Fernandes also has three assists in seven matches with a passing accuracy of 77.7%, though he has five goals to go with it.

Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish has been one of the form players in the competition with four goals and five assists from seven matches, with the marginally better passing accuracy of 79.8%.

Naturally, the raw goals and assists of De Bruyne, Fernandes and Grealish will be higher. Simply by playing more minutes than Ziyech. But at the early stage of the season, and up to as many as five starts behind, Ziyech compares well.

Where to now?

This has been a very good start to life in the Premier League for the 27 year-old. Continuing at this rate will instil him as a key player in Frank Lampard’s squad. The one concern, is Ziyech’s injury history. He had recurring calf problems during his time at Ajax, and flare up would quickly end his run of form.

Assuming – and hoping – Ziyech stays healthy, Chelsea’s front four becomes almost set. There are several configurations Lampard can go with, however all of them involve Ziyech on the right and Timo Werner up front.

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