Just about a half an hour into his first match Stamford Bridge, Hakim Ziyech scored from a
corner free kick right near the corner flag. It’s wasn’t your classic olímpico, but that’s only because it wasn’t technically a corner (just something closely resembling it), and also because it was far more hilarious, especially in retrospect.
Ziyech’s curling ball, taken with his left from the right flank, hit the far post, rebounded directly into the face of the despairing goalkeeper, and from there, into the back of the net.
Technically, it was a Kepa Arrizabalaga own goal. But Ziyech, as he should, took credit, certainly in the celebration. Still standing on the spot of his free kick, he looked around, to the Matthew Harding and the East Lower, and shrugged his shoulders. If he were a fictional gladiator, he might have shouted, “Are you not entertained?” (especially as there were officially no away fans in the stadium, due to a ban from UEFA on Ajax).
Perhaps Ziyech already knew that barely three months later, he would be putting pen to paper on a contract and (future) transfer agreement to Chelsea. Perhaps he didn’t. But that moment is now evocative of his qualities that we’re seeing in a Blue shirt, both in terms of sublime skills and the confidence and even arrogance that stems from them. To be sure, it’s a “good arrogance”, as Frank Lampard explained after the Sheffield United win on Saturday.
“He was probably at his best today. He has a good confidence and arrogance about him – a good arrogance. He will keep trying those passes and keep trying to get those assists.”
-Frank Lampard; source: Metro
It’s a dangerous word, “arrogance”, especially when used in conjunction with a player who’s wired a bit differently than the stereotypical professional players who are easily digestible and categorizable for a headline-hungry media. Ziyech’s own (now former) head coach “warned” about that back in the summer as well. Ten Hag may have joking (slightly), but a lot of truth is said in jest, as they say (not in jest).
“Sometimes [Ziyech] is a trainer’s nightmare, but you have to give him space. Hakim is ‘what you see is what you get’. [...] He is a character, headstrong. But that also makes him brilliant. He sees things that others don’t see.”
-Eric Ten-Hag; source: talkSport
Remind you of anyone? Sounds a bit like Eden Hazard, doesn’t it, except not so much carefree as maybe care-less? And I don’t mean any of that in a negative sense.
Like Hazard, Ziyech is levels above most others. And he knows it. Unlike Hazard, that isn’t preventing him from doing everything that’s needed on the pitch or on the training ground, in addition to everything that cannot be defined in a tactical instruction. For Lampard, it’s a been a perfect combination, and a fantastic first impression.
“He impresses you even more when you work with him [...] He will be a big player for us. I need players who can come in and lift the level. That’s hard. The midfield were great with their driving runs. He has given us an extra edge and a different threat. He’s been out for a long time so it’s been really impressive how quickly he’s hit the ground running.
“He gives us a different style in terms of the left foot off the right side. It’s something we haven’t had much of in recent years. The ability to find the last pass or the last cross or assist to break teams down that have a low blow – we saw that today.
“His personality rubs off. I keep talking about personality. I think it’s a huge thing in football. The signings we’ve brought in have brought a lot on and off the pitch. The confidence he exudes and how much he wants to receive the ball and be the important player that makes the assist has been a big plus.”
-Frank Lampard; source: Sky via FourFourTwo
Chelsea have scored 14 goals in Ziyech’s three starts, and he’s been credited with a direct contribution in over a third of them (2 goals, 3 assists), but he’s had a hand in just about all of them. As one of the older players on the team, he’s also being counted on for leadership, and he’s doing that as well, with several of his teammates speaking highly of him already.
It’s quite impressive how all of Chelsea’s summer signings have made such great starts to life at the club. Having built up a bit of momentum, if we can carry this forward into the winter, we just might be seeing something wonderful bloom in the spring.