Frank Lampard believes Hakim Ziyech can fill the gap left by Eden Hazard.
Chelsea playmaker Ziyech, 27, has had to bide his time because of injury since arriving from Ajax in the summer but is now showing real glimpses of his quality.
That has delighted Lampard who has admitted they have struggled to replace Hazard since his move to Real Madrid in 2019, especially after Pedro and Willian also departed in the summer.
But Lampard believes Ziyech’s extra quality and versatility – he can play wide and as a No. 10 – will make him a vital for Chelsea this season.
Chelsea boss Lampard said: “We had Pedro last season and Willi was a huge player. The year before that we had Eden Hazard. Those sort of players don’t get replaced on a whim.
“With Hakim we had the potential to bring in someone with real different qualities to what we’ve had in recent years in terms of a left-footed, right-sided player, which was his main position position at Ajax.
“I know he also played in a No. 10 and he can definitely do that for us if we want to play a No10.
“But he does it in a way that he very much about opening up chances for others with his crossing ability and final pass.
“He’s not necessarily a winger who is going to fly past players all the time, albeit that is in his game. He can find a pass and sometimes last season I felt we lacked that when we were playing against low-block defences.
“We saw a bit of his quality and personality against Krasnodar. The idea of receiving the ball and turning, facing forward and finding that pass before teams are set, that is what I’m excited about to see from Hakim.”
It was in the last weekend of October last year when Christian Pulisic scored a hat trick in Chelsea’s win at Burnley – also three days after a Champions League trip to Ajax – and Ziyech showed what he has to offer against Krasnodar this week.
Maybe that will work as some sort of lucky omen for Ziyech but Lampard insists that the Dutch-born forward does not lack any confidence.
Lampard said: “I really like him as a personality. I had conversations with him very early when we signed him and was struck by his confidence. There is an inner confidence which I love. We needed that.
“We need players with confidence and personality who believe they should be here and want to offer something. He has been an absolute dream to work with.
“Sometimes you see the best of players when they are injured because he was so excited to come here and hit the ground running and got his injury in pre-season and his work ethic in the gym, interaction with the physios, desire to get fit and to form relationships in the group.
“He had played at a good level and I watched him in a lot of the Champions League games for Ajax so I knew he had the ability to play at this level but I get what you are saying it is not an easy league. I have said that about other players and I can’t take Hakim out of that either.
“I need players who can try and make that pass and try to bring us up a level. Hakim showed that at Krasnodar and that is part of the reason he settled – and it was his first start – is because of his mindset.”
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