Chelsea have signed their own Bruno Fernandes
Hakim Ziyech is set to arrive at Chelsea from Ajax this summer and there are parallels to Bruno Fernandes' arrival at Man Utdby Graham Ruthven
The signing of Bruno Fernandes has changed the tone of Manchester United’s entire season.
Until his January arrival at Old Trafford, United appeared to be missing a key component, someone to connect the dots to form a coherent picture.
The Portuguese midfielder, signed for an initial £47m from Sporting Lisbon, has since proved himself to be that component. Indeed, Fernandes’ signing could, in retrospect, be looked back on as a critical moment in the race for the top four.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side looked to be out of contention at the start of the year, but they are now breathing down Chelsea’s neck with just three points between the two sides.
Chelsea might have already found their own Bruno Fernandes for next season, though.
The Blues started their summer transfer business early by signing Hakim Ziyech from Ajax for £33.3m in February, with the Moroccan international set to arrive at Stamford Bridge in time for the 2020/21 campaign.
Positionally, Ziyech is a different player to Fernandes. He performs a different role to United’s central midfield creator, but there are still parallels to be drawn between the two.
Chelsea hope that, much like Fernandes has done at Old Trafford, Ziyech will make other players around him more effective.
Ziyech has had a direct involvement in 18 league goals for Ajax this season. He might play in a wide position, but he is not a flying winger in the archetypal mould.
He is a creative and attacking hub, illustrated by how the Moroccan is both Ajax’s top shot-taker (4.2 per game) and key pass maker (3.7 per game) this season, according to website WhoScored.com.
Chelsea during the break
This isn’t too far removed from Fernandes’ statistics since joining United. The Portuguese is averaging 3.8 shots per Premier League appearance as well as 2.2 key passes.
Fernandes might play more centrally, either as a deep-lying playmaker or closer to the opposition penalty area, but both he and Ziyech attract the ball. They are trusted by their team-mates to make something happen.
“He ticks lots of boxes and I'm delighted that we're in a position where we can say he'll be our player next season,” Frank Lampard explained when the signing of Ziyech was announced.
“He'll have to fit into the way we want to work here, but the quality he's got hopefully will be there for the fans to see.”
It should be noted that Ziyech is capable of playing in central midfield. In fact, it’s a role he has performed for Ajax a number of times this season, most recently in their final game against Heerenveen before the Eredivisie season was brought to a premature end.
Alongside Van de Beek and Lisandro Martinez, Ziyech provides attacking creativity for Ajax and Lampard could use the Moroccan in this way too.
But with Mateo Kovacic and Mason Mount capable of playing here, backed up by N’Golo Kante, Jorginho and the emerging Billy Gilmour - not to mention the returning Ruben Loftus-Cheek - Chelsea’s most desperate need is almost certainly on the right side.
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If Ziyech was to be compared to a current Premier League wide man it would be someone like Riyad Mahrez rather than out-and-out wingers like Nicolas Pepe or Wilfried Zaha.
Ziyech likes to cut inside and link up with team-mates and won’t hesitate to have a go at goal himself.
Most importantly, though, he facilitates others, bringing the best out of his team-mates. In that sense, Fernandes could be the closest peer to compare him to.