Two goals in six days, but two very different celebrations.
Hakim Ziyech’s delight after scoring a 20-yard stunner for Chelsea in Sunday’s 2-0 win over Tottenham was in stark contrast to his non-celebration after finding the net in a 1-1 draw with Brighton in midweek.
He explained that the results and performances required different responses.
“The game against Brighton we didn’t play well so there was frustration,” he told Sky Sports.
“But today we played well.
“How good was the goal today? I think it was 10 out of 10. I thought maybe I hit it a little bit hard and in the end I saw it go in.”
So good was the Moroccan’s performance against London rivals Spurs, his boss Thomas Tuchel suggested it may have been his best game in a Blues shirt since joining from Ajax in the summer of 2020.
“It was a very good game overall. He took the risk where it was possible, he was safe when it was necessary to be safe,” Tuchel told Match of the Day.
“It’s probably the best position for him very wide in a 4-1-4-1, we don’t normally have this position in a 3-4-3 but it helped him and he stepped up and took responsibility.”
How did Tuchel get best out of Ziyech?
It was the change in formation that proved key to Ziyech’s standout display and the tactical tweak could give Tuchel inspiration for unlocking match-winning performances from the 28-year-old in the future.
Tuchel’s preferred 3-4-3 system would usually have Ziyech on either side of a front three, and often receiving the ball in more central areas, with the width provided by full-backs.
Chelsea’s rare switch to a four-man midfield behind Romelu Lukaku against Spurs gave Ziyech a wider role and his increased positive numbers were stark as a result.
No player had more than his 97 touches for Chelsea, and his 34 passes in the final third were the most of anyone on his team. In fact, those were the most touches and final third passes he made in any Premier League game this season.
Compare that to the 1-0 loss to Manchester City last week, when he played in a front three, and he only had 24 touches and made seven passes in the final third. Similarly, his total crosses put into the box jumps from two to 10 between those games.
“He deserved his standing ovation, it’s about his overall contribution today,” said former Arsenal defender Matt Upson on BBC Radio 5 Live.
“He’s been key to Chelsea today, he’s made clever runs, done really well coming inside on his left foot and some of his deliveries into the box have been brilliant. He’s had a really strong game.”
The question for Tuchel now will be whether to stick with a system that appears to bring the best out of the Moroccan, or revert to his tried and trusted approach.