“I told you so,” says Hans de Jong, Hakim Ziyech’s former youth-team coach at Heerenveen.
He has just witnessed Ziyech’s stunning performance in Chelsea’s 4-1 win over Sheffield United, a victory orchestrated by the club’s new signing from Ajax. One wonderful left boot delivering two assists to help Frank Lampard’s side secure another three important points.
“He seems very comfortable and relaxed,” De Jong tells Sky Sports.
“The other players recognise his qualities and that is important.”
How could they not recognise it? Ziyech was at the heart of Chelsea’s best work even apart from the expert crossing that delivered goals for Ben Chilwell and Thiago Silva.
In total, he created six chances. Not only the most of any player on the pitch and more than the entire Sheffield United team put together, but equalling the record set so far this season by Kevin De Bruyne in Manchester City’s opening game of the campaign.
It was Ziyech’s pass down the line that penetrated the Sheffield United defence and allowed Mateo Kovacic to find Tammy Abraham in the centre for Chelsea’s equalising goal too.
Timo Werner had the chance to make it a hat-trick of assists for the Dutchman, hitting the post when put through in the second half. He later made amends with the fourth goal.
Frank Lampard can feel it all coming together.
“People expected our attacking players to click on day one of the season, but of course that doesn’t happen,” he told Sky Sports after the game. “It is a work in progress, and the movement and the relationships on the pitch is something you have to work on.
“There are great signs, but we need to keep going.”
Ziyech’s move to Chelsea was confirmed long before the rest of the summer arrivals but he was the last of them to start a game for the club, following an injury in pre-season. Greater focus was on the vast potential of the younger German duo of Werner and Kai Havertz.
But after having to wait until the last day of October to make his first Premier League line-up, Ziyech has made a big impact. Chelsea have scored at least three in all four of his starts.
Cole's view on Ziyech
“He has gone under the radar a bit due to the injury but I think when he has come back now he looks fit and he looks like he is enjoying the way that Frank plays and playing with his team-mates,” Ashley Cole told Sky Sports. “He is using that wand of a left foot to perfection. He is the one pulling the strings so I think he is a big player for Chelsea.”
“He has been a long time out of football with an injury, so to hit the ground running like he has, it is a great signing,” Lampard added. “He is a huge plus for us and will continue to be so.
“We played against him in the Champions League last year and I knew the player the year before and he is a top-class player. You could see that from afar, but when you work with him, he impresses you even more as you see his personality.”
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That personality was evident in his interview after the game. When it was put to Ziyech that he might have just been looking for an area when delivering his crosses, he disagreed.
“No, I just always look at them before I take the ball,” he told Sky Sports. “I think only eye contact is enough for us. I am not afraid to give a pass or whatever.”
At 27, Ziyech is late in his career to be making the step from the Eredivisie to the Premier League. That can sometimes bring with it difficulties. But the positive is that he is mentally prepared for this challenge. He is used to being a big player and ready for the responsibility.
“He is a top-class player, a very complete player,” said Lampard. “To hit the ground running the way he has is a huge plus for us. There are some great left foots in the Premier League, but he gives so much more than just that. I have been really impressed with his attitude.
“He wants to know about plans for the next opposition.”
It is the sort of attitude that could help Ziyech have a big season. The sort of attitude that could help Chelsea have a big season. He already seems at home in the Premier League.
“I feel comfortable,” he confirmed afterwards.
“He has always had this calmness,” adds De Jong. “You could not get him crazy. He thought about things and what he wanted.
“That is pretty good if you can do it.”
It is already apparent to everyone that Ziyech can.
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