3. There’s something missing from the Blues attack: Hakim Ziyech
Ziyech is in the most cliche of ways, the difference maker. Many fans have complained about how they hate how he’s “one-dimensional”, and he keeps “putting in the same crosses even when it’s not working”. Fans are complaining about his crosses and feeling that Ziyech is wasting possession, meanwhile there are games where crosses provide the best goal scoring opportunities.
Ziyech featured in the reverse fixtures of Burnley and Sheffield United earlier in the season, helping the Blues to comfortable 3-0 and 4-1 victories respectively. He sat out the reverse fixtures of those, with the blues recording 2-0 and 2-1 victories respectively. The 2-1 Sheffield victory needed a pen to push the Blues ahead.
Let’s talk about crosses. Chelsea completed four crosses against Burnley with Ziyech on the pitch and three crosses when he wasn’t. The Blues completed five crosses against Sheffield United with Ziyech on the pitch and six without Ziyech. In these games, Chelsea has attempted two more crosses with Ziyech on the pitch. These numbers indicate that in certain games, Chelsea will cross the ball often anyway, it’s only a matter of who is crossing them. Even when Ziyech isn’t the one crossing them, someone else is. The difference is that Ziyech’s crosses create more goal scoring chances, and he doesn’t just cross the ball in the box, he looks for runners, and doesn’t cross when he doesn’t see them.
This is indicated in the games Ziyech played and the ones he didn’t. In these two games Ziyech played, the Blues scored more goals, and created better chances. Chelsea created four big chances combined against Burnley and Sheffield United without Ziyech on the pitch. When Ziyech played, he alone created four big chances combined in these two games. The more recent Burnley and Sheffield United games, even the Tottenham game, showed that the Blues are lacking a player with the ability to deliver the final ball.
Against Sheffield United, there was one instance where Azpilicueta intercepted a Sheffield pass and drove forward, he had about four passing options, all runners towards goal, but he hesitated until he had to pass it to his nearest man. This happened because while Azpilicueta may have spotted these runners, he didn’t have the technical ability to execute these passes. That’s just one example, but it is glaring that many of the Chelsea midfielders and attackers don’t have the quality to deliver a good final ball. Ziyech does.
What lessons did you learn from this match? Let us know in the comments and on Twitter!