Back in early December Chelsea received some good news, their transfer ban had been lifted.
The ban had prevented the club from making any signings during their first summer under new manager Frank Lampard, a summer that had seen them lose superstar Eden Hazard.
It was therefore expected that when Chelsea were unleashed in January Roman Abramovich’s cheque book would be seeing some action. Yet the Blues remained surprising quiet, instead preferring to wait until the end of February when they swooped to sign Hakim Ziyech from Dutch champions Ajax.
The Moroccan’s arrival was somewhat overshadowed by the signing of Timo Werner, and he may slip further from the limelight if Chelsea can bring in any of Thiago Silva or Kai Havertz. Yet the first signing of the Lampard era is going to have a vital role to play if Chelsea are going to take the step forward they expect this season.
The long and short of it is this. For large swathes of last season Chelsea looked short of ideas. At times Lampard’s high-tempo football was a joy to watch, particularly when his young starlets were slicing through teams. But before lockdown, and occasionally afterwards, teams started to figure out a few ways to stop the Blues. The chief way of this was teams dropping their defences deeper and playing in two well-organised blocks. It’s not exactly a new way to stop big teams but this younger, perhaps almost naïve, Chelsea team couldn’t figure out a counter.
The numbers will also tell you that Chelsea were one of the better teams from set-pieces last season, but most Chelsea fans know that regularly reliable delivery has been missing for some time. Mount alleviated some of the pains last season but Ziyech should raise the game. Mount’s no slouch in the air and having him in the box should theoretically make Chelsea even more of a threat this season.
His goalscoring can be hit and miss. He is certainly capable of popping up with goals, as all modern day attackers need to be able to do, and the team will benefit from that. However he does have a tendency of taking on some outrageous shots. That will frustrate fans and Lampard, but his technique is good enough that it will be something opponents will have to factor in, even if they’re speculative. His movement is excellent though and he drifts a lot from that wide right position, and those late runs could be a valuable source of goals. Plus, crucially, his work-rate is up to scratch. Lampard suffers no fools when it comes to putting in the dirty work and Ziyech is perfectly willing to sacrifice himself for the good of the team. It’s something that’s crucial for Chelsea wide players, particularly in Lampard’s system.
But ultimately it’s his creativity that will bring him to the fore at Chelsea. No player will have the level of inventiveness that he has and you can see what Lampard and Chelsea are trying to do. Pairing Ziyech and Mount with a host of players with pace and movement makes perfect sense, it can help make Chelsea more unpredictable and more difficult to deal with.