Has Hakim Ziyech filled the void Eden Hazard left at Chelsea?


t is far too early to make serious comparisons between Hakim Ziyech and Eden Hazard – but it is impossible not to get excited by the winger, who has had an immediate impact on Chelsea’s fortunes.

And while there are players who would be daunted by the prospect of being mentioned in such exalted company, the suspicion is the Moroccan will relish the challenge of proving he can belong among the club’s greats.

Ziyech has only started four games in an injury-delayed season, but he has produced enough in a short space of time to suggest he will provide the spark that has been missing since Hazard’s move to Real Madrid two summers ago.

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Proving he can be the inspiration to a Premier League title-winning side is the next challenge – but his desire to be the key figure in a Chelsea team crammed with individual talent is the trait that has stood out among his new teammates and manager in a short time at the club.

His January move from Ajax went under the radar after Frank Lampard’s summer spree brought in two of the hottest prospects in Europe in Kai Havertz and Timo Werner, as well as Brazil legend Thiago Silva.

In the cases of Havertz and Werner, Chelsea arguably secured the two biggest marquee signings of any Premier League club. Yet Ziyech, who received smaller fanfare than Frenkie de Jong, Matthijs de Ligt and Donny van de Beek in the Ajax team that reached the Champions League semi final in 2019, has immediately pushed himself to the forefront of Lampard’s revolution.

“His personality rubs off,” said Lampard. “I keep talking about personality. I think it’s a huge thing in football. The confidence he exudes in how much he wants to receive the ball and be the important player that makes the assist has been a big plus.”


Ziyech is becoming a key player at Chelsea

/ POOL/AFP via Getty Images )

The six chances Ziyech created in Saturday’s 4-1 win against Sheffield United was the best by any player in the top flight this season, according to Opta.

That statistic does not include the through ball that led to Mateo Kovacic creating Tammy Abraham’s first half equaliser. Without that pass, which completely opened up Sheffield United’s defence, there is no goal.

He created two direct assists himself – and but for the woodwork and unusually wayward finishing from Werner in the second half, that number would have doubled.

In just two league starts Ziyech is already joint fourth in the assists table, with three. That’s equal with Kevin de Bruyne, Bruno Fernandes and James Rodriguez.

Harry Kane leads with eight.

In Hazard’s final season, he provided 17 assists in all competitions. In his absence last term, no Chelsea player got close to that figure, with Christian Pulisic leading the way on 10.

Ziyech’s impact is already clear to see. In his four starts Chelsea have scored 14 goals – winning each of those games.


Ziyech looks the real deal

/ Pool via REUTERS )

Discounting the 6-0 EFL Cup romp against Barnsley, that’s as many goals as they’d managed in their previous eight games of the campaign.

“He has given us an extra edge and a different threat,” said Lampard. “He gives us a different style in terms of the left foot off the right side. It’s something we haven’t had much of in recent years. The ability to find the last pass or the last cross or assist to break teams down that have a low block.

“He’s brought a different element to our game. He sees the pass and has no fear to try the pass even if he’s missed the last one because he’s trying to play game-changing passes regularly.

“I think there are a lot of parts to his game. I wouldn’t want to just lean on that. His work ethic off the ball as well, his work for the team means he’s a very complete player so I expect a lot more to come from him.”

The bravery to try the audacious is a quality Lampard clearly values.

It is a trait ex-players often refer to. Bravery is not just about physicality, but the confidence to consistently show for the ball even when it isn’t going your way.

Ziyech’s shooting from distance was a part of his game noted during his time in the Netherlands – for good and bad – and his willingness to attempt the spectacular.

He has brought an X factor to Chelsea’s play in just a matter of weeks – and that is without Havertz and Pulisic for much of that time.  

By the time Lampard can field his full-strength team on a consistent basis, it has the potential to be devastating.

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