An essential pawn in Ajax’s great epic in the Champions League in 2019, Hakim Ziyech had decided to join Chelsea in the summer of 2020 while the other stars of his team had also chosen to leave the club. But in the end, like Van de Beek, De Jong, Neres or De Ligt, not everything went as planned for the Dronten native after leaving Ajax. However, it had started very well in London under the orders of Franck Lampard. The former legend of the Blues, who had made the Moroccan his priority for the 2020 summer transfer window, was quick to install him in his 4-3-3. And in his preferential position, Hakim Ziyech had quickly given satisfaction in a game of possession. But then a shoulder injury and the dismissal of Lampard a few months later turned everything upside down.
When Thomas Tuchel landed on the London side, he quickly made it clear to Hakim Ziyech that he was going to have to evolve to earn his place in the eleven because the profile of the former Twente player does not really match what the player expects. German technician. Especially in the game without the ball where Ziyech has never been famous for multiplying high intensity runs for 90 minutes. So inevitably, the former PSG coach favored profiles like Mason Mount, Kai Havertz or even Christian Pulisic and Timo Werner to set up his transition football. And the results proved him right since he managed to win the Champions League only 6 months after his arrival. For his part, Hakim Ziyech was content with a few ends of matches without being transcendent. “I think I had a bit more trouble than most other players because I had never played in a major league. I needed time and I took that time to adapt, learn and improve.”he explained.
A profile that does not fit with Thomas Tuchel
Yet at times Chelsea seemed to lack attacking creativity and a killer in front of the goal. To create chances, Thomas Tuchel had sometimes trusted the Moroccan who brought his quality of passes and without the multiple failures of his attackers, he could undoubtedly have finished his season with better statistics (39 matches, 6 goals, 4 assists ). After a great summer preparation and a successful performance in the European Supercup, the Moroccan international (40 caps) had managed to redistribute the cards in the eyes of Thomas Tuchel who had installed him in his eleven. But once again, when he seemed to be regaining his confidence, a new shoulder injury kept him out of action for a while. Enough to lose his place again and let the German technician build his training around other players. “It’s crazy. Every time you do well, you get hurt or something bad happens. And you have to start over and over again” regretted Ziyech in an interview with the club website.
This year, Chelsea did not radiate as much as last season and the Blues had all the trouble in the world to create danger offensively. With a transparent Romelu Lukaku, an uninspired Werner and an irregular Mount, the London attack did not shine, but Tuchel never wanted to revive Hakim Ziyech. The latter, even more than last season, was content with a few matches and a few entries in new positions for him (right piston, left piston). The tactical flexibility of the former Dortmund coach and the many changes in the eleven also did not allow him to have some continuity. If these statistics are better this season (44 matches, 8 goals, 6 assists), for example, he has never chained more than 4 starts in a row.“It’s my fault, it’s my choices. I’m picking other players, which is hurting Hakim right now. I can understand that it’s my fault if Ziyech can’t show more.”explained Tuchel this season.
An inevitable departure to relaunch
This summer, Hakim Ziyech has a good chance of leaving London for a new challenge. While he has never been able to meet Thomas Tuchel’s expectations, the Moroccan remains a player who has a good rating on the transfer market. Especially in Italy where AC Milan made it a target to strengthen its attack. Already last summer, the Milanese club had discussed with the player’s entourage, but Ziyech, like Chelsea for that matter, had wanted to continue the adventure in the Premier League to try to win. But after another mixed season, it’s more than ever time for a start.
At 29, the Atlas Lion still has many good years ahead of him at the highest level, but he will have to quickly find the rhythm. Especially since he only has his club left to shine in major competitions since he still refuses to return to the Moroccan selection while his federation and his coach have tried to ease tensions recently. A few months before the World Cup, which he should therefore be watching, his future choice of club will be decisive, because after two disappointing seasons, Hakim Ziyech no longer has the right to make mistakes.