Who is Hakim Ziyech and how can he improve Chelsea?
Photo by Soccrates via VAVEL Images

Somewhere in Amsterdam, Hakim Ziyech will have checked the score between his next club to be, Chelsea, and Manchester United as the pair came to blows in the Premier League's race for Champions League football. 

The current Ajax gem will have been disheartened by the result, a 2-0 home defeat by the Reds, as the Blues hold on fourth spot slipped to just one point. 

Ziyech himself is lavishing at the top of Eredivisie after another impressive campaign with the Dutch champions, so what can he bring to a side tittering on the brink of European football? 

Moroccan magic

On Monday evening, Chelsea managed just one shot on target in front of a disgruntled Stamford Bridge crowd as they fell to their third defeat against United in as many months. 

Admittedly, Lampard was without his leading marksman in Tammy Abraham, placing the responsibility on Michy Batshuayi’s shoulders as the replacement striker failed to deliver. 

None of his other team mates come to the rescue, and Chelsea lacked that cutting edge in the final third that has forced them to drop valuable points at various stages of the season. In Ziyech however, they have an extremely creative individual that could well minimise these issues going forward. 

21 assists and further eight goals in 31 appearances across all competitions in 2019/20 is a remarkable return for a player who came to light in last year’s memorable run to the semi-finals of the Champions League with Ajax. 

The Moroccans goal contribution would be a priceless asset to any side, especially one who rely heavily on the injured Abraham and who lack that real cutting edge when entering dangerous positions.

To put into perspective, Ziyech has created 71 key passes (second most in Eredivisie), compared to Chelsea’s highest in this category, Willian with 48. Equally, 87 shots have flown in from the Ajax danger man (most in the Eredivisie), a distance off Abraham's total of 72.

Replacing the brilliant Belgian

Lampard took over as Blues boss in July, following the dismissal of Maurizio Sarri, who to his credit, led the Londoners to Europa League glory and Champions League football which the current crop is revealing in now. 

Neither feat would have been possible without the excellence of Eden Hazard, now on the books of Real Madrid, who at times was a one-man band which propelled Sarri to his silverware.

Now, the Belgians void is being heavily felt and the onus was placed on fellow new recruit, Christian Pulisic, to fill this sizeable hole to little effect.

Ziyech has not yet reached the heights of Hazard, however his qualities are sparklingly similar. For example, last term, Hazard hit 21 goals and 17 assists whereas Ziyech managed 21 goals and 24 assists to completely rival the former's record. 

Equally, both are dynamic on the ball, taking joy out of beating an opponent with effortless ease. What sets them apart is their favoured choice of foot; Ziyech’s lop sided in his 'Arjen Robben' left footed approach, whereas Hazard could operate on either. What will lighten Lampard’s mood is his newest signings strength anywhere across the front four, much like Hazard, whether that be in behind the striker or coming off both flanks as an inside forward.

What the Ajax star does have over the Madrista is his speciality at set pieces, already put into the practice during the Champions’ League group stage, most noticeably in the stunning 4-4 draw against Chelsea, in which Ziyech scored a direct freekick from the most ridiculous angle. 

Champions League pedigree

Continuing the European theme, Ziyech caught the attention of footballing world, not just Chelsea, as he tore up the tournament as the Dutch dared the way to the penultimate stage. 

Goals in both legs against Madrid, accompanied by a trio in the quarter final at home to Juventus, in the away win against Tottenham Hotspurs and the crushing home defeat to Spurs, rightly earning him a place in the 'Champions League squad of the Season'.

He continued where he left off in this year’s addition, leading the assist charts (five), but could not stop Ajax from crashing out at the first hurdle as they dropped down into the Europa League.

If Chelsea can hold onto their precious fourth place in the Premier League, Ziyech will be awarded the elite level of football he deserves and his short, but explosive experience in the competition will be crucial for a young team lacking in the nous to take on the best in the continent. 

On the subject if youth, Lampard’s mantra is clear for the world to witness now, placing his trust in players hot off Chelsea’s academy production line, combining with experienced internationals.

Ziyech falls somewhere in between, as the 26-year-old has 32 caps and 12 goals for his country but has only been playing in division where three sides have dominated the division for decades. In the England, Chelsea fans will hope he can stretch his preverbal wings and flourish under a manager who is hot off the press. 

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