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Why signing Hakim Ziyech is a positive move by Chelsea

Ziyech will join Chelsea ahead of 2020-21 season
Ziyech will join Chelsea ahead of 2020-21 season
ANALYST
Modified 17 Feb 2020, 18:19 IST
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13 months after signing Christian Pulisic, Chelsea finally made another transfer announcement (apart from the confirmation of Mateo Kovacic's loan being made permanent) last week. The West-London club has confirmed an agreement with Ajax for the signing of Hakim Ziyech prior to the 2020-21 season.

According to the official statement issued by the Dutch Club, the player has been sold for 40 million euros, which could increase further up to 44 million euros.

It doesn't take rocket science to figure out that Chelsea desperately need an injection of quality in their team. Over the last three seasons, the Blues have been non-existent in the title race and are nowhere close to the caliber of the squads that Manchester City and Liverpool have in their ranks at the moment.

Being under a FIFA imposed transfer ban and losing Eden Hazard set Chelsea back in their fight to climb back to the top. Although the Court of Arbitration for Sports overturned the embargo in December, the club failed to make any moves in the winter market - which leaves Frank Lampard facing a mammoth task to ensure Chelsea can secure Champions League football next season.

However, the signing of someone like Ziyech is a positive start. No player comes with any guarantees of success, but at least from the outset the Moroccan international looks like one of the shrewdest signings the club has made in the last few years, for various reasons.

Goals

Over the last three seasons, if there is one common problem that has hurt the Blues every year, it is the lack of goals. The sale of Diego Costa left a void that the club has failed to replace. Hazard's departure (who was involved in 50% of Chelsea's goals last season in the Premier League) has only made things worse.

Lampard has been vocal about his frustration about this on numerous occasions.

According to data on understat.com, Chelsea are underperforming their expected goals (xG) by 6.00 goals. At home, where they have only won five league games all season, things are significantly worse. The Blues are 12.38 worse off their xG at Stamford Bridge.

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Evidently, the lack of goals is the biggest problem that Chelsea face at the moment. Tammy Abraham has done remarkably well in his first season in the Premier League but apart from him, the team is desperately short of natural goal-scorers.

Arsenal FC v Chelsea FC - Premier League
Arsenal FC v Chelsea FC - Premier League

The fact that deep-lying midfielder Jorginho (who has only one non-penalty goal this season) is Chelsea's second-highest top-scorer across all competitions speaks volumes.

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This is what makes Ziyech an extremely important acquisition by the Blues; he could go a long way in solving the problem. Since joining Ajax in 2016, the 26-year-old has 48 goals to his name in all competitions. He is someone who has time and again shown that he is capable of being a consistent goal-scoring outlet for his side.

In recent times, Chelsea have also lacked creativity and more often than felt the absence of a player who can play the pass which opens up the defense. This is where Ziyech's signing is even more useful.

The Moroccan is one of the most creative players in Europe at the moment. According to OptaJoe, Ziyech has created 421 chances for his teammates since joining Ajax, which is 134 more than any other player in the Eredivisie. Moreover, he has racked up an astonishing 82 assists in his four seasons in Amsterdam.

Left foot

Ziyech has one of the strongest left-foots in the world at the moment
Ziyech has one of the strongest left-foots in the world at the moment

Apart from Arjen Robben, one can hardly think of a successful left-footed winger at Chelsea in the Roman Abramovich era. Since Juan Mata's departure in 2014, the Blues have barely had any left-footer in attack.

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Having only right-footers in the final third has deprived them of an important element of surprise in goal scoring positions. And the likes of Riyad Mahrez, Leroy Sane, Bernando and David Silva at Manchester City or a Mohammed Salah at Liverpool have exhibited the difference that can make.

This is an option the Stamford Bridge faithful have cried out for long, and next season they will have finally have one.

Versatility

Another thing that makes Ziyech a positive move for Lampard is his versatility. The Ajax forward is capable of cutting inside from the right and being a dynamic inside winger. He can also feature in the 'number 10 role' by playing just behind the striker and pulling the strings for the team.

The 26-year-old is someone who will give Lampard not just additional quality, but also the option to use different tactical set-ups.

Price tag

The first thing that strikes you about the deal is the low price-tag. In the inflated transfer market, there is no doubt that Chelsea have got Ziyech at a bargain deal. That ensures the club has sufficient resources to purchase more quality players going forward.

With Chelsea's need for players in multiple positions including more attacking options, this could turn out to be an important factor in the long run.

You are bound to question whether a player coming from the Dutch League will be able to produce the same results in England. There is no doubting the difference of standards in the two leagues, and only time can answer this question.

However, it's worth remembering that Ziyech has proven himself in the Champions League, having put up memorable performances against European heavyweights like Bayern Munich and Real Madrid.

Every transfer comes with an element of risk, but this is one move that has more possibilities of succeeding than not. At the moment, the only downside of it is that Lampard does not have Ziyech's services till the end of the season.

Published 17 Feb 2020, 18:19 IST
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