Most of the moves Chelsea made this summer were focused on improving our attacking potency and consistency, adding multiple high-quality options to a young and improving group. So far, the returns from the likes of Kai Havertz, Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech have been great.
But football isn’t just about attack, as we’ve once again learned at the start of this season. We need balance. And in defense and midfield, we’re still relying on pretty much the same players as last season. Adding Thiago Silva and Ben Chilwell has been key of course, but the former especially is being viewed as a temporary solution.
Fortunately, others are stepping up their levels around them as well. In midfield, N’Golo Kanté is playing as well as he has in months, if not since the end of the 2018-19 season. In defense, young Reece James has shook off the early season rust, while Kurt Zouma is proving a solid partner for Silva in the center.
Zouma already led all center backs in minutes last season, and by some margin (Andreas Christensen at 2342 minutes was second to Zouma’s 3704), and if he continues to play as he has — at either end! — that trend is likely to continue as well. In fact, he’s second on the entire team in minutes at the moment, his 839 trailing only Timo Werner’s 881.
For Zouma himself, it’s just about doing his best and repaying the faith shown in him by manager Frank Lampard.
“I’m very happy to have played in the last games because the manager has given me trust and I want to give it back.
“Every minute I’m on the pitch, I want to prove something to him. It’s been a good run recently and the competition is here. I want to keep going because I feel good. Every time you are on the pitch you have to play great. I am trying to do my job.
“At the minute everything is going good.”
If it feels like Zouma’s been around for a while, well, it’s because he has been. The 26-year-old, who celebrated his birthday just last week, has been our player for almost seven years, putting pen to paper on a Chelsea contract in January 2014 when he was still a teenager playing for Saint-Étienne in his home country, France. Of those seven years, he spent two and a half out on loan of course — mostly as rehab from a devastating ACL injury suffered in early 2016 — but he’s returned a much more well-rounded player to once again reestablish his starting credentials at the club.
In a way, he feels like one of the veterans in what is still a very young squad — a squad who are learning to trust each other and have confidence in each other, in both attack and defense.
“I feel like I’ve been here for ages. I want to keep going and there’s still a lot of work to do. I’m pleased about the clean sheets. It’s more about the teamwork and everyone is working hard. Everyone is doing their job.”
“The thing is we just focus on ourselves. Sometimes we do well and other times bad. Everyone trusts each other and the mood is great. The mentality is solid and and the confidence is high.”
-Kurt Zouma; source: Mirror
Long may that last!