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Kurt Zouma on staying patient, learning from Conte, and joking with Kanté

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The young Chelsea defender was interviewed by L’Equipe

Crystal Palace v Chelsea - Premier League Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

One gets the sense that L’Equipe journalist Vincent Duluc tried very hard to get Zouma to say something controversial about his (lack of) playing time in this interview — helpfully translated by /r/chelseafc — but the young center back made sure to answer everything reasonably, respectfully, and realistically.

Yes, he wants to play more. Yes, he needs to play to continue his development as well as recovery from the ACL injury he suffered twelve months ago. (Injuries don’t just impact physically and often psychologically, they also carry opportunity cost with them.) Yes, he understands that the team’s playing very well in the current setup and his real shot at the starting job will probably only come next season. Until then, he’s got the FA Cup to give him minutes.

So, beyond all that, the actually interesting parts are when Zouma talks about Conte’s training and also when he talks a bit about his fellow Frechman N’Golo Kanté.

Zouma’s not the first to talk about Conte’s exacting demands, but he talks about in slightly greater detail than most.

...we know what we have to do now [in the 3-4-3]. How to be in good position , how to defend. Everything is very precise with the coach. [...] We work on the distance between the players, how to close a player when he quit his position, the anticipation for a 1-2, lot of things. We do a lot of video too, and on the pitch, the coach is very focus if you want. He will say to you to be on position even if it's only for one meter. He will explain to you that one meter is the difference. He's focusing on every detail.

Zouma says he’s picking up the new system just fine and he’s confident of being able to make an impact once again. After all, he had become just about automatic first-choice before his injury and, lest we forget, he’s still just 22 and part of the next generation of potential defensive stalwarts at Chelsea.

Another player who’s still quite young and thus hopefully able to rule the pitch for Chelsea for a long time is N’Golo Kanté. Unlike the loud, big, and boisterous Zouma, Kanté is a shy, quiet person. So of course they’ve become fast friends.

“For me, he has been amazing in every match this season. In life, he's very shy, very simple, very calm, the others don't hear his voice a lot. He's not someone who is going to talk to the others, you need to go to him to hear his little voice. He's with me in the changing room, i like to laugh with him, making jokes. He's always making me laugh, honestly, he's too funny. I like him a lot and everyone likes him in the dressing room. When he scored against Manchester United (4-0) in October, everyone was so happy for him. Everyone jumped on him, slapping his head. He's so shy but so impressive on the pitch ! He deserve everything who has been happened to him.”

“[Against Liverpool] he tackled 16 times, succeeded 14 times... The day after at the video training, we only saw him. The guys said to him "You loose the ball on purpose to take it back after?" We joke but we all like him, and because he's been so impressive.”

Awww, happy days!