Chelsea head coach Frank Lampard has revealed how he was struck by Hakim Ziyech’s ‘inner confidence’ when they first spoke in the summer and says the winger has been an ‘absolute dream’ to work with this season.
A knee injury in pre-season meant Ziyech missed Chelsea’s first six matches of the campaign before he returned as a substitute in the side’s 3-3 draw with Southampton earlier this month.
Ziyech also came off the bench in Chelsea’s goalless draws with Sevilla and Manchester United before starting for the first time in midweek as Lampard’s men beat Krasnodar in the Champions League.
The Moroccan seized his opportunity, scoring the third goal in a comfortable 4-0 win, and Lampard sang his praises at his press conference ahead of Chelsea’s trip to Burnley.
‘I really like him as a personality,’ Lampard said ahead of Saturday’s Premier League encounter at Turf Moor.
‘I had conversations with him very early when we signed him and was struck by his confidence. There is an inner confidence which I love. We needed that.
‘We need players with confidence and personality who believe they should be here and want to offer something. He has been an absolute dream to work with.
‘Sometimes you see the best of players when they are injured because he was so excited to come here and hit the ground running and got his injury in pre-season and his work ethic in the gym, interaction with the physios, desire to get fit and to form relationships in the group, he has made himself at home and felt at home in a short space of time.
‘I think he is going to be a big plus for us on the pitch and in and around the pitch I can see it already in the way he has trained and the confidence in the way he has trained with.
‘People always think that personality is just about getting a foot in, shouting and fighting to the end. Of course, you require that in football, but sometimes personality is receiving the ball in tight areas when others don’t want to and taking the confidence to keep getting it and make things happen even if you try a pass that has not got there.
‘He’s not necessarily a winger who is going to fly past players all the time, albeit that is in his game. He can find a pass and sometimes last season I felt we lacked that when we were playing against low-block defences.’
According to Lampard, Chelsea could not pass up the chance to sign a player of such unique qualities once it became clear a deal for Ziyech was on the cards.
‘We saw a bit of his quality and personality against Krasnodar. The idea of receiving the ball and turning, facing forward and finding that pass before teams are set, that is what I’m excited about to see from Hakim,’ he added.
‘We had Pedro last season and [Willian] was a huge player. The year before that we had Eden Hazard. Those sort of players don’t get replaced on a whim.
‘With Hakim, we had the potential to bring in someone with real different qualities to what we’ve had in recent years in terms of a left-footed, right-sided player which was his main position at Ajax although I know he played in a No.10 and he can definitely do that for us if we want to play a No.10.’
‘I respect the players and feelings and I am sure that they expect and want to start and have a really good case to start,’ the Chelsea boss said.
‘I have to make sure the feel of the squad is good and the spirit is good. At the minute it feels really good.
‘So the example of Toni coming in and training well over the past couple of weeks and coming in and performing with a level of concentration and control and the way he played is a fantastic example for any player that does not play so much.’