There are a few different ways which Ziyech could fit in to Frank Lampard’s side, so let’s take a look at the decisions the boss has to make.
On the Wing: Let’s start with the obvious one. The reason Chelsea have signed Ziyech is because they were hugely impressed with his performances as a right winger for Ajax. Because of that, many fans have got the impression that Ziyech is a winger, which isn’t strictly true.
There’s an obvious void in Chelsea’s side out wide, with both Willian and Pedro likely to leave the club when their contract expires, so it seems as though he is most likely to play there. After all, Chelsea learned just how deadly he can be out wide in the Champions League when he bagged three assists in the 4-4 draw.
On the wing, Ziyech can bring his creativity, cross-field passes and wand of a left foot, and he’ll also have the license to drift inside and wreak havoc. With his intelligence on the pitch, Ziyech knows how to direct teammates and drag opponents out of position, and that’s what made him so dangerous with Ajax. As a traditional winger, there are concerns about his speed and physicality, so if he is to play in that position, he’ll need to use his brain to give him the advantage – just as he did in Amsterdam.
As an Attacking Midfielder: During his time with both Heerenveen and FC Twente, Ziyech was usually deployed as an attacking midfielder in the hole behind the striker, and even though his stats might not show it, there’s reason to believe that this could be his strongest position. Lampard often sets his side up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Mason Mount operating in that number ten role. However, while the Englishman has impressed at times, he has struggled to find the creativity to unlock stubborn defences. Fortunately, that’s what Ziyech is about.
In this role in the 15/16 season with Twente, Ziyech managed 17 goals and 12 assists in 33 outings, and it was because of his performances as a ten that Ajax splashed out to sign him. He proved his ability to take control of a team and lead by example, which is what Lampard’s young Blues are crying out for. Even as a winger for Erik ten Hag’s Ajax, Ziyech is tasked with drifting around to create space, so he ends up finding himself in a central role anyway. The entire pitch becomes his playground, and he can exert his influence all over.
As a Central Midfielder: Callum Hudson-Odoi and Christian Pulisic are two young wingers who need game time, and if Lampard chooses to line up without a ten, there might not be a traditional spot for Ziyech on the team sheet. Fortunately, Ziyech is also fairly comfortable dropping deeper in midfield. He would be ideal in a 4-3-3 where he could be shielded by a defensive midfielder like N’Golo Kanté or Jorginho. It’s a role which Ziyech has filled in the past, pulling the strings from deep, and it would give him even more room in which to roam.
Playing him at the base of a 4-2-3-1 is perhaps a step too far – his defending is never going to set the world on fire – but against a weaker side who set up in a low block, he could be another creative force. Don’t expect to see this too often, especially considering Lampard has to find minutes for Mount, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Mateo Kovačić and Ross Barkley in this role as well, but it’s definitely something for the boss to consider.