Thomas Tuchel has praised Hakim Ziyech’s return to goalscoring form for Chelsea but admits that he is still expecting more from the forward.
The former Ajax star hit the only goal of the game on Tuesday as the Blues squeezed past Malmo in a 1-0 Champions League victory.
It was his first strike since August, and a welcome sign for the Morocco international after struggling to make an impact this season.
“Could this help Ziyech kick on? Yes, but still I think there is space to improve in his decision-making, connections on the pitch, where to be more consistent,” Tuchel told reporters after the final whistle on Tuesday.
“We always rely on his work rate, counter-pressing, awareness. It is a huge part of his performances. He can still be more clinical and maybe grow more into the rhythm, but I think his shoulder injury hurt him a lot.
“Even if he pushed hard to come back early, he is not still 100% free as he should be, especially the offensive players love their freedom of turning but I am happy that if things get stuck, a goal like this will help the most. I am happy for him.”
Ziyech added: “I am trying to be important for the team with goals and assists. I have had some hard times behind me, the injuries and I haven’t really recovered fully [from a shoulder injury].
“I work every day on it, even when it is not going as it is supposed to but I have always believed in myself, what I can do on the pitch, I am still believing.
“I know what I can do, where my highest level is and like I said, I have had hard times with injuries and finding my rhythm again. I have struggled to find that again but it is something you have to work hard for. That is what I am doing every day.”
The key to Chelsea’s victory, which leaves them on the verge of clinching a Champions League last-16 spot with two games left to play, was the decision to swap Ziyech with Callum Hudson-Odoi at half time, with the attacking pair switching flanks to great effect and the latter supplying his teammate’s goal with a fine cross.
Tuchel revealed that he was not the man behind that tactical masterstroke.
“All the credit has to go to my assistant, he came up with the idea,” he added.
“We liked having two right-footed players on the right side and two left-footed on the left side. We had the feeling that maybe we could enter into the spaces behind Malmo’s low block, that we would maybe lose important seconds if they have to switch the ball back on to their strong foot, then their No 8s were closing spaces.
“We thought maybe we could save important tenths of a second, the situation was like this [for the goal]. We had a breakthrough on the half position and he delivered precisely enough. The credit goes to my assistant.”
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