By the end of his time at Chelsea, Cesc Fàbregas was no longer as integral to the team as he once was. And yet, his absence was keenly felt after he for AS Monaco in January 2019, as we no longer had a purely creative force in midfield who could unlock defences with one pass from his magic foot.
But it looks like we have addressed that gap by signing Hakim Ziyech, whose Chelsea career has gotten off to a very promising start. Ziyech might not have the magic right foot of Fàbregas, but that’s only because he’s left footed. Cesc himself agrees.
“[Ziyech is] a very good player. He has this vision that you need in a top team like Chelsea, who want to win and be champions.
“You could see that they were lacking ideas last season and maybe at the beginning of this season, but with Ziyech, you can see that he has this last pass. It’s not only that he sees it, it’s that he makes it right, at the right time. That’s the decision-making that we talk about nowadays.”
Real recognize real, as some might say.
For Fàbregas, Ziyech is the rare player who doesn’t need to be constantly told what to do in certain situations. He has the vision, the decision-making, the intelligence, and the technique to take a coach’s gameplans and the team’s ambitions to the next level.
“Why are coaches so tactical? Because they see the decision-making of the players is not that good, so they always need to teach them what to do. Before, I believe that coaches were not as on top of the players as they are now, they felt that maybe there was not as much need because the players already saw it themselves, but I believe that Ziyech is one of these players.
“He makes things happen, things that when the defenders don’t expect. They don’t expect the pass, you catch them sleeping and you have someone like Timo Werner making great runs in behind. I think this is where Chelsea could be so powerful this year.”
-Cesc Fàbregas; source: 90min
Of course, no player is perfect (ed.counterpoint: N’Golo Kanté) and ultra-creatives like Fàbregas can have several downsides, especially on the defensive side of things. But Ziyech has shown plenty of willingness to put in the work off the ball as well, while scoring and creating goals at the other end. If Fàbregas is right, and there’s little reason to think he isn’t, we just might be adding the next trophy to the cabinet after a rare season without one.