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What Will Hakim Ziyech Bring to Chelsea?

After months of frustration for Chelsea on the back of their transfer ban, Blues fans rejoiced at the news of a high profile signing. O...


After months of frustration for Chelsea on the back of their transfer ban, Blues fans rejoiced at the news of a high profile signing.

On Wednesday Chelsea announced the signing of Ajax winger Hakim Ziyech for a fee of around £38m, though these days fees are never completely straightforward. It tends to only be three or four years after the initial transfer goes through that add-ons based around individual awards, goals scored and team achievements are all added up and the buying party knows exactly how much cash in total they have to depart with. But that initial fee is a good indication nonetheless of what Ziyech was valued at.

Good on Chelsea for closing the deal now, even though they know Ziyech won’t actually be joining them until the summer. Ajax refused to let go of a player now who is so crucial to their domestic title bid but Chelsea’s patience will surely pay off when he finally does start playing. Here’s why the Moroccan international should prove to be such a good signing.

Scorer of goals.

Since making his debut for Heerenveen back in the 2012/13 season, Ziyech has made 207 appearances in the Dutch Eredivisie, 201 of them as a starter. In those matches, he scored 79 goals, which works out at 0.37 goals a game. Very respectable indeed, for a player who isn’t a striker.

Now, you can say what you like about the Dutch top league not being that great, the standard of the defending not being the best and the high average number of goals per game in the Dutch top division. But you can only score goals against the teams you’re up against. And if those figures in the Eredivisie don’t convince you, then how about these: he has eight goals in 35 appearances across the Europa League and Champions League and 14 goals in 32 international appearances for what is a rather mediocre Moroccan side he plays for. This current Chelsea side aren’t exactly blessed with goal scorers at the moment. Tammy Abraham is the only player in double figures for the season across all competitions and only a further three have five or more. His goals next season will be priceless.

Creator of goals.

If it’s creating goals rather than scoring them that you want, he’s even better. 249 games for club and country have yielded 98 assists, testament to just how deadly that left foot of his is when it comes to putting the ball on a sixpence. Currently, Chelsea’s best source for creating goals is the Brazilian Willian. But he’s out of contract in the summer and there’s little or no evidence to suggest that a new deal will be agreed, with the winger wanting a contract for at least two years and the Blues reluctant to offer more than one year. After all, this is a player who will already be 32 when the next season starts. Again, Ziyech may be exactly what they need in this regard.

Set-piece supremo.

Gone are the days when players such as Frank Lampard, Eden Hazard or Arjen Robben offered excellent options from corners and dangerous free kicks. These days Willian, Jorginho and Marcos Alonso (when he plays) are probably the three better ones but none of them are anything to write home about except Willian, who as we’ve said already, may well leave anyway. The absence of good corner-kick takers is particularly a problem because the likes of Antonio Rudiger, Abraham and Cesar Azpilicueta are such good headers of the ball within the opponent’s box. Pinpoint deliveries from corners and the ability to find the target from freekicks around the box will certainly add another string to Chelsea’s bow throughout the next campaign.

Priceless versatility

Chelsea, like so many other teams, like to play a playmaker/number 10 in front of two traditional centre-midfielders, with two wide forwards flanking the striker.

So, it’s a good thing for them that Ziyech can play either as the 10 or in either of the wide positions upfront. His best position is probably on the right where he loves to cut inside onto his left boot, giving him numerous options. He can play the short pass inside, curl a cross into the back post, shoot for goal or play the sort of remarkable cross-field ball that makes for some highly entertaining YouTube viewing.

Once again, his arrival is all the more important because of the probable departure of the player currently occupying that position, Willian.

But it also gives Frank Lampard the option to play Hudson-Odoi or Christian Pulisic on the right and shift the Moroccan to the left. The other option is to play the pair of those out wide and hand Ziyech the play-maker role, meaning Mason Mount either plays deeper, or not at all.

All these different options thanks to Ziyech’s versatility mean that next season Lampard will be able to play more varied systems or adopt a horses-for-courses approach to each individual match in terms of which players play where.

The Marketing factor.

Football of course isn’t solely played on the pitch. At least not when it comes to making money. Look at the effect that Mo Salah has had back in Egypt, since arriving at Liverpool. Tens of thousands of replica shirts sold, a new market to sell TV rights to, a good place for pre-season tours knowing no tickets will go unsold. As if Ziyech wasn’t a big enough name in Morocco already, his transfer to Chelsea will further boost his profile and provide plenty of opportunities for Chelsea to cash in on his marketability.

Is Ziyech the missing link?

He may well be. Since the departure of Eden Hazard last summer, Chelsea have been lacking that little bit of magic and unpredictability that is often the difference between drawing a game and winning it by the singe goal. And because football isn’t solely about results, those little touches of inspiration are also the difference between supporters coming to watch a match because they’re diehard fans and going to the ground because they’re hoping they might be about to witness something a bit special.

Ziyech will surely tick that last box when it comes to the entertainment stakes. But he’s also likely to make a massive contribution to the team’s overall fortunes and with him on board, you can understand why Chelsea are sure to be a top pick for a Top Four finish next season.

There is however work to be done in that regard. They’ll need at least one fresh face in the heart of defence where Antonio Rudiger is the class act who’s screaming out for a partner in the same league as him, to improve on a poor record when it comes to keeping clean sheets.

They may also need a new addition up top. Tammy Abraham is rightly the first-choice striker but Olivier Giroud’s days at Chelsea are clearly numbered, while Michy Batshuayi is going along the same route with Lampard as he has with previous Chelsea managers: he’s a decent impact player off the bench but is rarely trusted to actually start a game.

So lots of areas of improvement, but the arrival of Ziyech is very much a step in the right direction.

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