Chelsea need to quickly discover what Hakim Ziyech’s best strengths are if he is to blossom in the Premier League.
That is according to former Chelsea and Wigan Athletic defender Mario Melchiot, who spent five years applying his trade at Stamford Bridge.
Ziyech joined the Blues from Dutch giants Ajax last summer and was dubbed by a whole host of Chelsea supporters and pundits as the ‘Signing of the Summer’ after how well he had performed in the Netherlands in recent seasons.
However, the Morocco international, who racked up nine goals and 20 assists in all competitions for Ajax last season, has experienced a disappointing first season at Stamford Bridge, largely because he has experienced an array of injury problems.
But after stepping down to the bench against Everton on Monday evening, the versatile attacker was recalled to the starting line-up against Leeds United at Elland Road on Saturday lunchtime, as Thomas Tuchel, the Blues head coach, continued to press forward with his rotation policy.
However, Ziyech struggled to impose himself on the game, proving ineffective for the most part and he was replaced by Timo Werner with just over 20 minutes remaining.
But with Ziyech’s maiden season in England having not gone according to plan, former Blues defender Melchiot believes Chelsea need to find a way to discover his best strengths, as well as insisting that he needs a consistent run of games to rediscover his mojo.
Melchiot told Stadium Astro: “He doesn’t always get the opportunity. I think Frank [Lampard] understood him better, he wanted him and went after him.
“I think Ziyech is facing now what he had at the beginning at Ajax. It was kind of difficult for him to get a run going. Once he got it, he was among the top-two players in the team.
“Now in the Premier League you have many stars around you. He has to understand that.
“I think it comes down to rhythm. If you don’t play that often, when you get your opportunity you have got to grab it.
“But it can take a few games to get up to speed, so if he doesn’t get those games, it becomes really tough. I like him and I think he’s technically gifted, physically fit and understands the game well.
“At Ajax he would cross the ball so many times and there were players on the end of it. They [Chelsea] need to understand what his strengths are because if he can deliver that and really master that, it could be something special, if not then it becomes tough.
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“I know he won’t like it, he’s not a player who’s used to coming off the bench. He was a starting player every time at Ajax.”
Melchiot is not wrong when he points to a lack of consistency as potentially being the problem for Ziyech’s struggles. The longest sequence of consecutive starts the former Ajax man has had in the Premier League this season is just five matches, meaning it has been hard for him to familiarise himself with his teammates’ qualities.
As well as that, the Moroccan international has also had to adapt to a new boss and a completely new formation.
In total, Ziyech has racked up 24 appearances for Chelsea this term, scoring just two goals and claiming four assists.