Despite all of Chelsea’s transfer activity this season, and all the clamor around the Havertz announcement, the one transfer that spoke volumes of our desire to play expansive and front-foot football was the signing of Hakim Ziyech from Ajax. Their player of the season for the past 3 years running, Ziyech along with David Neres, Dusan Tadic and Donny Van De Beek was part of a sublime Ajax attack, winning games against much more fancied opponents with style. Under Erik Ten Haag, Ajax gained a reputation for fluid expansive football, and Ziyech was the creative heart of Ajax’s system.
Lining up at the right of the front three in a 4-3-3, Ziyech looked to cut in at every opportunity and feed the ball into Ajax’s willing forward runners. Finishing with 13 assists in a COVID-19 shortened 19/20 season is testament to his impeccable vision, and our forward line will be chomping at the bit to get on the end of his trademark through balls and crosses. For all their industry and endeavor, Willian and Mount aren’t the most creative players around, and Chelsea often struggled against compact teams content to put bodies behind the ball and break when they got the chance.
Ziyech is bound to be a nightmare for any full-back marking him. Let him cut in on his favoured left foot, and he can either tear the net apart with his magical left foot (reminiscent of Robben?) or play in any of Chelsea’s forward line of Pulisic, Werner or Havertz – all blessed with pace and a knack for timing their runs to perfection. Add in Reece James bombing down the flank all game long, and the Chelsea attack will now looks as potent and multi-dimensional as any in modern football.
The 2020/21 season sees the Premier League bursting at the seams with quality, and this young group winning the league in their first season together is a tall ask. But with a talisman like Hakim Ziyech, you never know!