Football Features

How Hakim Ziyech cemented his status as Chelsea’s signing of the summer in 4-1 win vs Sheffield Utd

By Harry Edwards

Published: 19:52, 7 November 2020

Hakim Ziyech was the star of the show as Chelsea came from behind to beat Sheffield United 4-1 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday evening.

The visitors took an early lead through David McGoldrick, scoring his fourth Premier League goal (three of which have come against Chelsea) to end the Blues’ run of clean sheets.

Ziyech could take some blame for the goal, as both he and N’Golo Kante switched off following a corner, allowing George Baldock to get onto the end of a reverse ball and play a cross into the box.

However, the Moroccan more than redeemed himself.

When Chelsea were dominating the transfer market in the recent window, signing the likes of Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Ben Chilwell and Thiago Silva, Ziyech’s name was sometimes forgotten. That’s because, despite being the first official signing of the window, Ziyech’s move was announced back in February as Chelsea worked quickly to rebuild their attack.

Ziyech also had to wait the longest to make his official Chelsea debut, 238 days between his announcement and arrival in fact, due to an injury picked up in pre-season against Brighton.

Even when Ziyech did make his debut, as a substitute against Southampton in October, it was a slow start, as the Moroccan looked to get back to full fitness. And now that he is fully fit, Chelsea are reaping the rewards.

He already showed what he was capable of in the 3-0 win over Burnley last weekend, scoring one goal and recording another assist, but this was a more complete game.

Starting on the right of Chelsea’s 4-3-3, Ziyech was the Blues’ most dangerous attacking outlet and Sheffield United didn’t seem to know how to deal with him once he got up and running.

Already the Moroccan has built up an excellent understanding with Reece James, and the partnership may be one of the best in the league already. The way Ziyech plays, tucking in ever so slightly, often gives him two options when he receives the ball; either he can pass to the overlapping James to whip the ball into the box, or he can create something with his wand of a left foot.

Chelsea’s equaliser came from the latter, but not directly. This time it was a lofted ball over the top of the Sheffield United defence to Mateo Kovacic, who then played it back to Tammy Abraham to score. It will never count as a Ziyech assist, but without the Moroccan’s left foot and vision, Chelsea would not have equalised.

He did, however, get the assist for Chelsea’s second from Chilwell. Again it came through his left foot, just tucked inside from the flank, receiving a corner. Somehow unmarked and unchallenged by any Sheffield United player, Ziyech curled the ball towards the far post to where Chilwell was running.

And although the left-back almost shied away from the ball, out of fear of being hit by goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale, Ziyech’s cross was so perfect it just needed to bounce off Chilwell to give Chelsea the lead.

Hakim Ziyech’s pass map vs Sheffield United

But Ziyech wasn’t just dangerous in the build up to goals. The Moroccan spread the ball across the pitch with ease, helping to switch play and stretch the Sheffield United defence. Only a smattering of passes, often exchanged with James, were short distance and up until the 77th minute only Mendy and Silva had not received a pass from Ziyech of Chelsea’s starters.

The 27-year-old put the latter right right with another delicious cross into the box, this time from a set piece, to set up Silva’s first goal for the club. The position was similar to one from which Ziyech set up a Kepa Arrizabalaga own goal for Ajax against Chelsea in the Champions League last season, but this time Silva and the Blues were the benefactors.

Just moments later, Ziyech was working his magic again, with another ball over the top of the defence to Werner and he should have got his hat-trick of assists. However, the German striker’s shot over Ramsdale was just wide, indicative of the indifferent game Werner had (though he did score shortly after).

Ziyech had to make do with just the two assists, but it added to his one against Burnley last weekend, to move clear of Chilwell as Chelsea’s most creative player in the Premier League this season. And that’s despite him playing just 190 minutes. On average, Ziyech is creating 3.79 chances per 90 minutes and recording 1.42 assists per 90 minutes. Among the rest of the Premier League, no player to have played at least 150 minutes has a better average of assists, while only Kevin De Bruyne (4.24) is creating more chances per 90.

Despite the performances of Werner, Chilwell, Silva and particularly Mendy, right now it would be hard to argue against Ziyech being Chelsea’s best signing of the summer. But what is important now is that he builds on it, with the international break perhaps coming at the wrong time for the Moroccan and Chelsea.

When they return it’ll be a tough away trip to Newcastle United in the Premier League, before potentially having the opportunity to secure their Champions League knockout spot against Rennes. Then, a fiery London derby against Jose Mourinho and Tottenham Hotspur. What better way for Ziyech to further cement his place in the hearts of Chelsea fans.