Following the end of Chelsea’s transfer embargo, Hakim Ziyech joins Timo Werner in what could be one of the most exciting forward lines in the Premier League next season.
Ziyech is certainly one to watch from an FPL perspective, so this article will help you decide whether he is likely to hit the ground running in a Chelsea shirt this season.
Role at Ajax
Ziyech has represented Ajax in the Dutch Eredivisie for the past four seasons, scoring 38 goals and providing 51 assists in 112 league appearances for the club.
Some eye-catching performances in Europe have brought a number of Ajax players into the spotlight; Hakim Ziyech certainly being one of them.
In his time at Ajax, Ziyech has transitioned frequently between the CAM and RW positions with great success. Arguably his best season for Ajax was in 2018-19 where he contributed 16 goals and 13 assists in 29 league appearances; predominantly from the right side of a forward three.
Unfortunately the 2019-20 season was cut short due to the coronavirus, which meant Ziyech could only feature in 21 league games. He scored 6 goals and provided 13 assists, frequently rotating between central and wide positions.
You can see from the heatmap below how he performed various roles in the forward areas last season, featuring strongly in the right and central areas of the final third.
What can Ziyech offer Chelsea?
Chelsea exceeded expectations in the league last season under new manager Frank Lampard, qualifying for the Champions League despite their transfer ban and losing talisman Eden Hazard.
Faith had to be shown in the current group of players, with many enjoying a rare opportunity to showcase their ability.
Younger players like Mount, Abraham, Pulisic and James all experienced valuable game time last season and made strong contributions throughout the campaign.
Willian, a more experienced player at the age of 32, also enjoyed his best season in a Chelsea shirt. His main contribution was linking midfield to attack by providing 2.6 KP90 (key passes per 90 minutes) but also frequently tested the keeper with 2.5 Sh90 (shots per 90 minutes), resulting in 9 goals and 7 assists for the season.
Willian’s contract expired this summer and has now agreed a move to Arsenal, so there is a position that needs filling in the Chelsea forward line.
While the arrival of Werner provides competition to current forwards Abraham and Giroud, it seems like Ziyech will replace Willian in the starting line up immediately. His versatility as a more central midfielder will also provide additional depth in the squad.
Despite being a left-footed player on the right side, Ziyech attempted an impressive 9.7 Cr90 (crosses per 90 minutes) compared with Willian’s 6.0 last season.
While many of these will have been set pieces, if Ziyech finds himself on corners and/or free kicks for Chelsea he could be a very appealing asset.
What are the drawbacks?
Let’s start with the obvious – Ziyech joins from Ajax, a highly successful side in the Dutch Eredivisie. A few tough Champions League games aside, he is untested against teams in the top leagues of European football.
We’ve seen examples of players who have struggled to make the step up in recent seasons; Memphis Depay (Man United) and Davy Klassen (Everton) to name a couple. Both players arrived with excellent numbers, but struggled to adapt to the a Premier League and were swiftly moved on.
Not to say the same will happen to Ziyech, but at 27 he has probably already maximised his development as a winger and will need to hit the ground running at Chelsea.
Ziyech’s output last season may also be cause for concern. He only scored 6 league goals (down from 16 in 2018-19) but was attempting 4.9 Sh90, whereas Willian scored 9 from 2.5 Sh90 in the Premier League.
This suggests Ziyech can be quite wasteful in front of goal (or takes very optimistic shots), and may need more cutting edge in the final third to play regularly at Chelsea.
Is Ziyech a viable FPL asset?
At 8.0M, Ziyech looks one of the better options for that price. Chelsea’s midfield appeal is also boosted by the arrival of striker Timo Werner from RB Leipzig who is likely to be more clinical than Abraham or Giroud were last season.
Given Willian’s departure, Ziyech will probably start the season in the RW role and be given a good opportunity to justify his price tag. With a fully fit Pulisic on the opposite flank, Chelsea look a very strong attacking side.
However, history tells us that few players hit the ground running when arriving from abroad, particularly from a weaker league like the Eredivisie. At 8.5M you could go for the more established Pulisic (if he is fit), or the explosive Mahrez (Man City).
It may also be worth waiting to see whether Ziyech will take Chelsea’s set pieces, as this could significantly improve his chances of generating points. He was a set piece specialist at Ajax so hopefully he will get his chance to impress at some stage.
The temptation may be there to throw him in from the start if Pulisic is still carrying a knock. However, patience may be the best move as we monitor how effective he is in the Premier League and whether Werner settles in alongside him.
Whatever you decide, it should be an interesting FPL season for the new Chelsea winger.