Hakim Ziyech has two goals and four assists in his last eight games, six of which have been starts. It’s probably his best run of form since agreeing to join Chelsea almost two years ago, just before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Much of that time has been defined by injuries and inconsistent play, but over the past couple months, the 28-year-old is seemingly starting to put things together in a Blue shirt. He’s still not quite the Wizard of AMS we had been expecting, but there’s magic in them boots, to be sure.
Ziyech himself is starting to feel more comfortable, as he reflected in a recent interview with Ziggo Sport.
“I think I’m starting to enjoy it more and more. When I enjoy it, I am at my best. I feel good and then everything goes by itself for me.
“[When I arrived] I didn’t underestimate the level of the Premier League, I knew it was tough. [But] I hadn’t played a game for six or seven months and during the first exhibition game I suffered an injury that kept me out for 12 weeks. Then you start with a huge backlog and it takes a long time before you are in top form. Whenever I started to do well again, I had another setback and I’ve had that for the past year and a half. Now I’m in a phase where I’m fit for quite some time and it’s up to me to make sure I stay fit.”
Certainly not an ideal time for the former Ajax player, but he’s become a solid contributor recently and is rewarding the (at times seemingly undue) faith placed in him by Thomas Tuchel.
Ziyech doesn’t necessarily have the best reputation when it comes to training or attitude — Eric Ten Hag called him (perhaps jokingly) a “trainer’s nightmare” while Frank Lampard talked about his “arrogant” personality (but in a good way), and that’s before we consider his fallout with his national team coach — but he’s appreciating Tuchel’s honesty and clear communication, and is making good use of his opportunities. At the end of the day, that’s all we can ask for, from all involved.
“I think [I am one of the best XI at the club] but a coach looks at what he needs per game. You know that there is a lot of competition at a top club, that is normal. Every player under contract here wants to play as much as possible. That is also the case for me. I have to show why I have to play. In that respect I am on the right track.”
“As a player and coach should have [a reasonable bond]. If there’s anything I’ll tell you. And if he finds something, he says it too. You don’t always have to agree, of course. From the moment [Tuchel] came in he has been sincere. Whether it’s in my favor or not, I’d rather you be sincere than try to do it some other way. He’s always been sincere and I appreciate that more than you do it any other way.”
Ziyech’s name has popped up in the rumor mill a few times, but with 3.5 years left on his contract, it’s unlikely that he’ll be going anywhere anytime soon. He says he would like to go back to Ajax one day, which of course could happen eventually, and there’s always the loan option, but for now, he’s on the right track at Chelsea and hopefully will continue contributing with important goals and assists going forward this season and beyond.