Xenia Sports – London
Just one look is all it takes for Hakim Ziyech to know whether he can conjure up one of his trademark assists.
Chelsea star Ziyech teed up goals for Ben Chilwell and Thiago Silva with defence-splitting balls in Saturday’s 4-1 Premier League win over Sheffield United.
The 27-year-old also set in motion Tammy Abraham’s goal with a lofted pass to release Mateo Kovacic, to further bolster further his already impactful start to life at Stamford Bridge.
And now the Moroccan master has revealed the briefest catch of a team-mate’s eye is all that is required to spark something special.
“I always look at them before I play the ball, usually eye contact is enough and you could see it worked well two times,” said Ziyech.
“I saw Kovacic running into space and sometimes you have to give those balls because they don’t know what to do with them.”
Chelsea slipped behind to David McGoldrick’s neat flick but hit back in style to blunt the Blades.
Abraham, Chilwell, Silva and Timo Werner all found the net as Frank Lampard’s men extended their unbeaten run in all competitions to 11 matches.
Summer Ajax recruit Ziyech has added an extra dimension to the new-look Blues, and he admitted to already feeling at home in west London.
Ziyech’s lofted pass for Kovacic in the build-up to Abraham’s goal underscored Chelsea’s growing fluidity in their revised tactical shape.
Full-backs Reece James and Chilwell’s high and wide touchline hugging, coupled with two of the three midfielders sitting deep as cover has suddenly afforded Chelsea’s wingers extra space.
Ziyech is not about to waste time to create, and was duly rewarded for loitering on the right flank by lifting that pivotal ball for Kovacic.
“It was the first time I tried it and we scored straight away,” Ziyech told Chelsea’s official website.
“I’m not afraid to give a pass, I feel comfortable here in the squad with all my team-mates.
“I’m really happy and I think that’s why I’ve started so well.”
Ziyech battled a knee injury after his Chelsea arrival that delayed his Stamford Bridge start.
But the accomplished winger has quickly hit full stride, leaving boss Lampard delighted with his point of difference.
“He has given us an extra edge and a different threat,” said Lampard. “He’s been out for a long time so it’s been really impressive how quickly he’s hit the ground running.
“He gives us a different style in terms of the left foot off the right side.
“It’s something we haven’t had much of in recent years.
“The ability to find the last pass or the last cross or assist to break teams down that have a low block – we saw that today.
“His personality rubs off. I keep talking about personality, I think that’s a huge thing in football.
“The signings we’ve brought in have brought a lot on and off the pitch.
“The confidence he exudes and how much he wants to receive the ball and be the important player that makes the assist has been a big plus.”
A deflated Chris Wilder admitted his struggling Blades now face a pivotal 10-match streak that will define their Premier League campaign.
“The next 10 games are big for us, the players understand that,” said Wilder.
“They worked really hard to get us into this position, in the Premier League, and they want to protect that – we all do.
“Our season won’t be defined by playing Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea.
“We need to get a foothold in the division in the next series of games.”