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Zola admits mistake made with Fikayo Tomori at Chelsea last season

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Surprised by talent

Chelsea FC Pre-Season Tour to Australia - Day Two Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

The summer of 2018 unfolded in less than ideal fashion at Chelsea.

Embroiled in a most acrimonious managerial change-over from Antonio Conte (who was still in charge on the first day of preseason!) to Maurizio Sarri, preparations for the season were also affected by the newly truncated transfer window as well as the World Cup that stretched into mid-July. Not exactly the best situation for making the best possible decisions.

And there were many decisions that needed to be made, with Chelsea’s entire bloated first-team, Loan Army, and academy hopefuls all waiting to find out their fates. It’s unreasonable to expect that every decision would be perfect even in the best of circumstances, and these certainly weren’t it.

Sarri assistant Gianfranco Zola would still like to have one of them back however in hindsight.

“Chelsea have been amazing this season. There have been a few [players] that have been impressing me. Tomori is one of the players. Last year we had him in the pre-season and we couldn’t see all the qualities that he is showing now. That is a surprise and a big lesson for us and me personally as well. They are going beyond my expectations.”

-Gianfranco Zola; source: Football.London

Zola didn’t elaborate on what exactly the lesson he’s learned may be — trust the youth? look closer? evaluate differently? — but it will probably make him a better coach in the future. Everyone makes mistakes; the trick is to learn from them and not make them again.

And without Zola and Sarri’s mistake, we may not be where we are today. Tomori ended up with Frank Lampard (and Jody Morris) at Derby County, and their fantastic adventure continues to this very day, now back in Chelsea blue.