Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel may have his own Robert Pires after Man City win
Chelsea: Tuchel suggests Champions League is up for grabs
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Chelsea will be hoping Hakim Ziyech will be the next Robert Pires after their 1-0 FA Cup win over Manchester City on Saturday night. It’s been a difficult first season at Stamford Bridge for the winger, much like it was for the Frenchman when he joined Arsenal. But his heroics suggest he’s capable of turning things around.
Chelsea vs Manchester City had the makings of a classic.
But it wasn’t. Instead, Thomas Tuchel and Pep Guardiola’s side played out a turgid affair at Wembley, with both cancelling each out for the most part.
It was always going to be a match where the winner won by a slim margin and, in the second half, Ziyech struck to propel Chelsea into the FA Cup final.
It’s been a difficult first season in the Premier League for the former Ajax star.
But his match-winning contribution suggests, like Pires before him, he’ll bounce back from a turbulent first year to be worth every penny.
Back in the summer of 2000, Arsenal signed the Frenchman from Marseille as a replacement for Marc Overmars – paying £6million to land the player.
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Except Pires, despite scoring 10 goals from 51 appearances, struggled to live up to the billing.
He even admitted that he found the physicality of the Premier League a struggle to adjust to, especially when compared to what he was used to over in Ligue 1.
But Pires then bounced back from that tricky first campaign to emerge out of Overmars’ shadow and as a top player within his own right.
He propelled Arsenal to the Premier League title the following year, with the Gunners beating Manchester United to win the competition.
And he also picked up the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year award on the way.
Now, Chelsea will hope Ziyech is their very own version of the Arsenal legend.
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This, certainly, was a major step in the right direction. He stood up and counted on a big day, boosting his side’s chances of a FA Cup and Champions League double in the process.
And his performance against City suggests he’s got all the talent required to turn his Stamford Bridge career around.
It wasn’t just his goal that deserves the plaudits.
Ziyech was a good asset at both ends of the pitch for Chelsea and, in the first half in particular, was the best player on the pitch.
Tuchel has plenty of attacking options but the Morocco international may have just given his manager a headache. A positive one at that.
Speaking after the game, the German hailed Ziyech – while also singling Timo Werner out for praise.
He said: “The two guys [Ziyech and Werner] were very, very good upfront with the speed and acceleration – and the impact that Mason [had] with the pass.
“Timo and Hakim, it was the same lineup like against Liverpool where they were also very, very strong in an away game in a 1-0 victory.
“Everybody who is on the pitch needs to perform, now is the moment in the season where we cannot drop one per cent and that’s the way we want it.
“It was a very, very strong performance. Very happy and very proud.
“We played an excellent 35 minutes in the first half, then we had to suffer 10 minutes of some easy ball losses and, of course, the quality of City.
“Then we played another half an hour so, so strong. Deserved the lead, deserved to win and could even be one goal higher.
“The last 15 minutes we suffered a lot because they played with a lot of risks, many offensive players and we were becoming a bit tired.
“But it was a very, very strong performance and very happy for my team, very proud they performed at this level today.”
Ziyech himself admitted Chelsea players were delighted in the aftermath.
“Timo did a good run into the space, I made my run, it was a good delivery and I put it in easy,” he said.
“You always have to have that feeling before the game that you want to score.
“It feels good to be in the final. Everybody is happy. We did a good job, especially in the first half.
“The second half was a little bit difficult to close all the spaces, but we scored the one goal that we needed. It was enough.”
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