Chelsea’s new signing Hakim Ziyech (£8.0m) has the potential to be the most exciting Fantasy Premier League asset at Stamford Bridge this season.
The Moroccan Wizard arrives in London tasked with transforming the creative potential of Frank Lampard’s attack, offering excellent delivery from set-plays and frequent long-distance shots.
The fact that he has been priced cheaper than Christian Pulisic (£8.5m) and Timo Werner (£9.5m) could make Ziyech the key man for investment if he has the desired effect on Chelsea’s front-three.
The History and Statistics
Born in the Netherlands, Ziyech started his youth career at the Reaal Dronten and ASV Dronten academies before joining Heerenveen in 2007.
An Eredivisie debut came in 2012/13, before a first full campaign in 2013/14, in which he netted nine times over 28 league appearances.
Ziyech was picked up by Twente the following year for just €3.5m and went on to notch 13 goals and 16 assists in the 2014/15 campaign. A sign of things to come as he managed 17 goals and 10 assists in 2015/16.
Those impressive seasons earned Ziyech an €11m move to Ajax in August 2016. Interestingly, switching to the Dutch giants saw Ziyech’s goal output dip in his first season, with eight fewer (nine) strikes, despite shooting more often (5.6 shots per game vs 4.9).
It was this move that brought out the best in the Moroccan’s key attributes though: creativity. As you can see from the table above, every season he spent at Ajax boasted a better key passes per game statistic than any campaign at any previous club.
It was 2018/19 when Ziyech was thrust onto the global stage as he scored 16 goals and assisted a further 13 in 29 Eredivisie appearances as well as registering six attacking returns in 11 Champions League outings.
It was his European exploits that started to turn the heads of the continent’s biggest clubs, finishing the 2019/20 Champions League groups stages with more assists than any other player (four).
Unsurprisingly, Ziyech left Ajax for Chelsea having featured in the Eredivisie team of the year three times, stringing together consecutive appearances in 2017/18, 2018/19 and 2019/20. Eligible to play for either Netherlands or Morocco, he chose the latter, currently boasting 14 goals over 32 international matches.
The general consensus on new signings from foreign leagues is to wait for them to settle in before investing from a FPL standpoint. However, there have been players in the past like Mohamed Salah (£12.0m), Bruno Fernandes (£10.5m) and Hazard who hit the ground running from day one. Is Ziyech capable of emulating these Fantasy greats? Let’s take a look…
Prior to joining Liverpool, Salah managed 20 and 31 goal involvements with Roma. He averaged 2.4 shots/game and 2.1 key passes/game. Ziyech managed 24 and 29 goal involvements across his last two full seasons (2017/18 and 2018/19) and averaged 4.8 shots/game along with 3.9 key passes/game.
The Egyptian upped his average shots/game to 3.83 per game with Liverpool and has been the player with the largest shot volume over the past three seasons. To give you an idea of how much Ziyech shoots, it is almost 30% more than Salah, although largely from outside the box.
The Moroccan’s creative numbers are staggering too. To put it in perspective, Kevin De Bruyne (£11.5m), the Premier League’s most creative player in 2019/20, averaged 3.9 key passes per game. The Belgian has averaged 3.2 key passes/game for his last three full seasons (2018/19 not considered due to injury).
Ziyech averaged 3.86 key passes/game for Ajax over the past three seasons. That’s about 20% more than De Bruyne. While a move to a harder league could see a drop-off in his numbers, a 20% margin certainly looks big enough to ensure Ziyech can still impress in England, especially considering how well he has performed in the Premier League.
|2019-20||Mins per shot||Mins per shot in the box||Mins per shot on target||Mins per key pass|
|Timo Werner *||22.8||28.4||43.9||53|
|Hakim Ziyech **||18.2||55.8||52.2||20.8|
As mentioned earlier, the Moroccan loves taking a shot. The majority of these efforts were from outside the box but it still makes him exciting and engaging to own from a FPL standpoint. As you can see, none of Chelsea’s 2020/21 key attackers unleashed a shot on goal as frequently as Ziyech last season, even Werner.
In terms of creativity, he is head and shoulders above any of his new team-mates, which bodes very well indeed. The frequency of his key passes should not only make Ziyech a potentially viable asset, it enhances the appeal of Pulisic and Werner, who are sure to fancy getting at the end of his signature crosses to the far post.
Unlocking deep blocks was a problem for Chelsea last season, one that Ziyech can help solve. 82 assists in 165 matches in all competitions at Ajax, and an average of over 3.5 key passes per game for them, is nothing to be scoffed at, whatever your opinions might be about the competitiveness of the Dutch league.
Lampard’s men were arguably too dependent on Willian for creativity in 2019/20. Mostly operating down the right flank, with very little creativity elsewhere in the team, the Brazilian’s work tended to define Chelsea’s attacking prospects. When he struggled, the team just could not break opponents down.
Furthermore, Chelsea fans voiced major complaints about Willian’s poor delivery from corners and free-kicks last season, which Ziyech is likely to take over (with the exception of penalties). The Moroccan is well-known as being one of the best strikers of a dead ball in Europe, so his presence is sure to improve Chelsea’s attacking prospects across the board.
With the Willian and Pedro departing, Ziyech looks locked in to fill the right-wing role, adding some fresh impetus to creativity from that side. His only real competition for a start in the front-three is Callum Hudson-Odoi (£6.0m), while Pulisic looks to have the left-hand side nailed down.
Encouragingly, Ziyech can also operate quite effectively as a number 10. That’s good news for Lampard who will arguably have more tactical options in terms of shape with Ziyech in the team – but also for the player himself. If he is struggling out wide in some games, he could find space to be effective by drifting into central pockets.
Another factor to consider with new players is how injury prone they are, how many games they have missed over the past few campaigns and whether these have been major injuries like an ACL or meniscus tear. Ziyech has played an average of 29 league games for the past seven seasons as well as featuring regularly in Europe which goes a long way to allaying any fitness fears.
Meanwhile, the fact he is 27 years of age means the players is more mature and developed than the rest of Chelsea’s young squad. The naivety of Lampard’s men was often cited as a reason for some disappointing results last season, so Ziyech is likely to be a key leader on the pitch in 2020/21.
There are some caveats though. Ziyech was allowed a huge amount of freedom to express himself with Ajax, often taking wasteful shots from range. As shared in the earlier table, even though he took a shot every 18.2 minutes, he only tested the keeper every 52.8 minutes. That roughly means only one of his three efforts was a shot on target, so while he might be an exciting player to own, prepare for some frustration.
There is also of course the argument to be made about the Premier League being a much more daunting prospect than the Eredivisie but his performances against top sides in Europe do indicate this is a player of global pedigree. Many feared the same for Fernandes last year, but we all know how that turned out.
Boasting an exciting mix of goal threat and creativity for a cheaper price than Pulisic and Werner, Ziyech is likely going to feature in my side for Gameweek 1.
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