Ahead of our trip to north London tonight, Hakim Ziyech has been discussing life so far under Thomas Tuchel and how he plans to become a big part of the new manager’s plans…
For the Moroccan international, 2020 was a stop-start year in more ways than one. Since his transfer from Amsterdam to London was confirmed almost 12 months ago, the 27-year-old has started 17 club matches for Ajax and Chelsea, owing to the pandemic and a couple of niggling injuries following his arrival at Stamford Bridge.
He was rested for the weekend win against Burnley due to what Tuchel described as ‘a bit of a risk of getting injured’ following an overload of training and match exertions.
However, he did start Tuchel’s first game in charge last week against Wolves as one of the inside forwards in the 3-4-3 system and has declared himself fit and hungry to start making a serious impression in the Premier League.
‘I’m feeling good,’ he stated this week. ‘I’m fit and of course I’m hungry as well. It wasn’t really an injury, more like game and training overloading. Sometimes you have to be smart and let the body relax. The coach did well, we spoke about it and we did that so now I’m ready.’
That will be music to the ears of Chelsea supporters ahead of one of the most hotly-anticipated dates in the fixture schedule – Tottenham away.
The Blues have good memories from our victory at the new stadium last season and Ziyech also remembers encounters with the Lilywhites well, having endured mixed emotions against them in the Champions League semi-finals two seasons ago.
The winger put Ajax 3-0 up on aggregate halfway through the second leg in the Dutch capital before Mauricio Pochettino’s side turned the tie around, although Spurs went on to lose in the final.
After a goalless draw in his first experience of the game as a London derby, Ziyech expects a more controlled display from the visitors in N17 tonight.
‘I think you will see a Chelsea that attacks more and controls the game more,’ he said. ‘That’s what we’ve tried to do in the last two games, to play with possession and from there try to attack a lot.
‘When we played them last time, it was against a team that really played on the counter with quick people on the sides but really staying compact so there was not a lot of space for us. It then is the job to keep the ball and let the ball do the work, move it quick and in the end spaces will come.’
A possession-based approach has been part of the early blueprint on show from Tuchel’s Chelsea and Ziyech admits the players have enjoyed getting to grips with the Bavarian’s methods and ideas.
‘It’s been good so far,’ he added. ‘We’ve had a good week. It’s not always nice when a manager leaves and a new one comes in but he’s brought his new ideas and everybody is excited to work under him.
‘The training has been different and in the last two games our formation and playing style was different as well so he really has his own ideas about the game. For us, it’s important to adapt quickly to it, to focus on the games and to follow the information the coach is giving us so we play how he wants us to play.’