As Chelsea completed the signing of Hakim Ziyech in 2020, the Moroccan was one of the most sought-after attacking talents in European football. It was seen as a no-brainer for the Blues to bring in the Ajax magician for just £33million.
Ziyech had just starred in Ajax’s semi-final- reaching UEFA Champions League campaign in the 2018/19 season. With seven direct goal contributions in the Dutch club’s European run, there was a spotlight on many of their attacking players; not least Ziyech, who was showing what he could do with his deadly left foot and direct dribbling.
Frank Lampard, who was the manager of Chelsea at the time, was delighted with the signing – and understandably so. However, since making the move to west London, Ziyech has failed to inspire, meaning he has been in and out of the side. And unfortunately for him: more of the latter.
This season, firstly under Thomas Tuchel and now Graham Potter , Ziyech has spent the majority of the time on the bench for Chelsea and up until recently, he was hardly used whatsoever. The 29- year-old, though, has played in every game – that he’s been available for because of his late return given Morocco’s heroics at the World Cup – since Chelsea’s players have come back from Qatar.
He has looked decent in all of those games, but he really stood out in Chelsea’s victory against Crystal Palace on Sunday afternoon. If needed, that served as a reminder to Blues supporters, and Potter, of the Morocco international’s talents and what he can offer the side when he is on it.
Ziyech started the game with some show-boating which encouraged Chelsea fans. There is a time and place to show off your flair, but with the Blues supporters feeling pretty glum before the match, it certainly lifted the atmosphere at Stamford Bridge. The former Ajax winger also set up the only goal of the match with a superb cross to Kai Havertz in the second half.
He looked the most likely out of the Chelsea attackers to actually create a chance – an area the Blues have been seriously struggling in recently. He has definitely put himself in contention to start at Anfield at the weekend when Chelsea take on Liverpool on Saturday afternoon.
The Reds, who picked up a much-needed and confidence- boosting win against Wolves on Tuesday night, have been out of form recently, like Chelsea, so it should make for a really intriguing battle on Merseyside. There is, however, stern competition for a spot in Chelsea’s front three at Anfield, with Mykhailo Mudryk’s recent arrival only increasing the challenge. However, the Ukraine international hasn’t played any competitive football since the end of November so it may be in Potter’s mind to ease him in slightly.
As well as this, Mudryk tends to operate on the left-hand side while Ziyech has been used almost all the time on the opposite flank. If Mudryk does start, though, which would come as a surprise, then Potter could move Mount over to the right – whether that’s justified or not given the England international’s worrying recent form. Ziyech has continuously been linked with a move away from Chelsea in recent transfer windows.
While a move won’t be sanctioned this month for various reasons, not least Chelsea’s injury crisis, questions over the Moroccan’s future are almost certainly going to be asked again when the summer rolls around. He currently has two-and-a-half years remaining on his contract at Stamford Bridge and a decision over his future does need to be made relatively soon, or the club will risk losing their winger for a bargain price.
If he can continue, and it’s a big if because we know how he’s struggled with consistency since joining Chelsea, then Potter may save the club millions of pounds in future transfer windows. The talent is clearly there. But, like with so many attackers in Chelsea’s current squad, consistency is the biggest concern. It’s a huge second half of the season for Ziyech and a big match for him on Saturday.