Many have been clamoring for Hakim Ziyech to start his first official Chelsea match, and they were probably disappointed to learn that the “Wizard of AMS” was once again only on the bench as the starting lineups were announced for our Champions League group stage opener against Sevilla yesterday.
But it turns out there is good reason for that, as reveled by Ziyech himself in his post-match interview with beIN Sports. He’s not fully fit yet after a number of months of the sidelines thanks to the coronavirus (which cancelled the Eredivisie season in March) and then his own knee injury (in Chelsea’s only preseason friendly, in August).
“I still have a ways to go [to reach full fitness]. Obviously, I didn’t play for a long time, because of the virus and [then] it was a bit unlucky that the injury came. So I just try to stay calm and everything will come right soon.”
Ziyech, like all others, also reflected on the tough challenge posed by the visitors last night, and especially on the difficulties of finding space against such an organized, well-drilled, and quality (if a bit underrated) side.
“We knew before the game that Sevilla is a really good team, with quality on the ball [but] it was [also] really difficult to find spaces. But at the end of the day, it’s a draw, it’s a point. We cannot be happy about it, but it is a point.”
-Hakim Ziyech; source: beIN Sports
With Pulisic just back to full fitness and Ziyech still just coming up to speed, Chelsea remain very much a work in progress on the pitch, at every level from macro to micro, and in every phase from attack to defense.
Ziyech, who’s by far the oldest and most experienced attacking player not named Olivier Giroud, recently observed sagely that we need time, but we also don’t have time. A draw like yesterday does give us a bit more time. Hopefully Ziyech himself will be back fully fit soon enough as well.