Hakim Ziyech is (still) ready for the Premier League
There was a time not too many years ago when you could mention the name Hakim Ziyech to a Premier League boardroom, and the response was, "Zi-who?" The Dutch-born Moroccan international certainly broadened his name recognition last season with some excellent performances in the Champions League, and now there's gossip that Chelsea are looking to sign him for €45m. Will he be a worthy successor to Willian?
Let's take a look at his stats at a Premier League standard to see just how those performances – as well as his seasons in the Eredivisie – might have stacked up. His attacking output at RW has been huge in the Eredivisie. In the UCL it's been more modest but still very good, with lower shot quantity and quality. Ziyech's ball retention, which was a bit off a bugbear earlier in his career, has improved to where he'd be about average for the Premier League at his position. And he's always been an aggressive, high-quality defender:
So at the very least, Ziyech has the overall numbers to be successful in the Premier League – and we've already seen what he can do in the Champions League. But how does he compare to Willian, whom he'd likely replace? Let's put their smartermaps side by side to see what sorts of tendencies they have in different areas of the pitch:
Ziyech is unpredictable on the flank – the gray and brown markers show where he has the most varied actions – and takes shots from central areas. Willian doesn't shoot much anymore but enters the box at a similar point to Ziyech on the right side, and more often than Ziyech as well. Willians also prefers shorter passes along the flank and doesn't drift inside as much as Ziyech.
To get a better idea of how Ziyech might look in the Premier League, we used our "Search by similar player" feature to see which Premier League RWs had similar styles to his style in the Eredivisie. He was closest to Christian Eriksen, who matched twice, with some other well-known names in the mix:
These are players who make longer, incisive passes and also shoot. They've also had pretty good target men on the receiving ends of their passes, and Ziyech might enjoy providing service to the likes of Tammy Abraham (and the sainted memory of Olivier Giroud).
But a more pertinent comparison might be Ziyech versus Willian and Callum Hudson-Odoi, who's played some RW this term as well. Ziyech shoots more and disrupts more plays, though otherwise he's fairly similar:
In addition to being a more aggressive defender than Willian, Ziyech also looks like a better tackler. Hudson-Odoi may be a bit more of a live wire in attack but a less ambitious passer. So in this case, Chelsea will have variety on the wing – and that's without considering the possibility that Christian Pulisic might enter the rotation on the right.
Chelsea could probably expect several good years out of Ziyech. He's 26 now and has played a demanding schedule in recent seasons, sustaining just some minor muscle injuries. He's also a slightly unusual personality – not in a bad way, just somewhat introspective and a bit of an esoteric thinker off the pitch. In the past, a smaller club might have suited him better, but the spotlight of last season will have accustomed him to the glare of the media. Still, London will definitely be an adjustment.
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[Photo: Mahdi Zare/Fars News Agency]