Denis Zakaria had to wait over two months to make his Chelsea debut, after joining the club on loan from Juventus on the final day of the summer transfer window. We had begun to wonder if we would ever see the midfielder in Chelsea Blue, and he himself was probably starting to wonder similar things.
But finally, last night, the head coach picked his number, and the 25-year-old responded with a performance that has certainly made us wonder even more why it’s taken him so long to make his debut. While the quality of the opposition wasn’t the greatest, his box-to-box play was a sight for our sore eyes. No, he wasn’t Kanté. No one but N’Golo can be Kanté. But Zakaria was excellent in his own right, and clearly delighted to finally play.
“Amazing feeling. Very happy about my goal and for the win as well because it was important for us to take the three points for our confidence.”
“I’m happy [with my performance] but I need more match practice because at the end I was a bit tired and I had a cramp also so it was not easy for me. But a good debut for me, and I have to continue like that.”
Zakaria limped out halfway through the second half, and while he’s played down any follow-up concerns by calling it a cramp, Graham Potter said that there was also some contact as well.
“He just got a kick. Just the contact. He was fine. No problems with him.”
“He showed his quality, won the ball back, helped with our attacking play, and obviously to score is fantastic. You can see the quality he has and we’ve seen it in training as well. He can strike a good ball so I think it was a nice goal for him and the team. It was an important goal for us so I’m happy he contributed to the team performance and for him to score was nice.”
Such high praise that, again, it’s easy to wonder how this guy wasn’t able to get any minutes whatsoever in the previous two months.
“He’s been, as you can imagine, frustrated and disappointed when he doesn’t play. That’s the life of a player but he’s handled himself really well. He’s kept himself fit, he’s trained really hard, supported the team and his teammates in a really good way. When you do that, you give yourself a chance to perform when your opportunity comes. So credit to him. Everyone was so happy for him and it was a great story for the whole group I think.”
-Graham Potter; source: Football.London
DENIS ZAKARIA SCORES ON HIS CHELSEA DEBUT pic.twitter.com/b15yHqibnb— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) November 2, 2022
Indeed, we are happy. But we don’t have to imagine too hard about his frustrations, Graham.
“[It’s been] very, very difficult I have to say. I like to play and always want to play. When you have to see your teammates from the bench it is not easy but I was always behind the team and was waiting for my chance. Today it came and I took my chance.
“[It was an] amazing feeling. The Chelsea fans are amazing. It is really good for me to have this experience. I hope I can have a lot of games in front of Chelsea fans. [And] I hope [I can get more minutes] but I think that is a question you will have to ask the coach!”
There had been some budding talk of Zakaria potentially return to Juventus in January already, but hopefully this is the start of more regular involvement for him in the Chelsea first-team, especially given our continuing injury issues. And it’s not like the fixture list will decongest itself in the new year either...