When analysing positions for Chelsea this season I think it’s fair to say the centre-back position has in many ways been one of the weaker positions this season, with a few mistakes coming from that area. However, to not just highlight negativity, this article will go into detail on why I think Kurt Zouma is Chelsea’s current best centre back.
Signing for the blues in January 2014 Zouma joined Chelsea from french side Saint Etienne on a five and a half year contract with the transfer fee rumoured to be around £12 million pounds. The 25-year-old Frenchman has been loaned out a few times to clubs such as Stoke City for the 2017-18 season and Everton for the 2018-19 season. Despite question marks asked of the centre-back in previous seasons, Zouma is now a certain starter for Frank Lampard’s Chelsea, and often in contention for the France national team.
Zouma is by no means a perfect, well-polished centre back, but this season at times he has shown a certain level of calmness on the ball and has performed well in key matches. In terms of playing time this season Zouma leads the way with an impressive (1,800) minutes on the pitch registered followed by Andreas Christensen on (1,700) minutes, then Antonio Rudiger on (1,400) and lastly Fikayo Tomori on (1,300) minutes who has suffered unfortunate injury woes this season. These statistics however clearly show Lampard’s faith and loyalty on playing Zouma.
It is important I feel to analyse the stats when analysing any defensive sort of player to see how they measure up. In terms of aerial ability Zouma has topped the chart over other Chelsea defenders in this discipline; defensive skills such as clearances Zouma also comes out top of the pile. The Frenchman’s best partnership is with 24-year-old Danish player Andreas Christensen with both of them adding some stability, although a more agile centre back will most likely be on Lampard’s wish list. So far a Thiago Silva deal is looking the most likely with the 35-year-old full of experience and would add that much-needed leadership to the back line.
Zouma’s best defensive performances have come against sides such as Leicester and Liverpool in the Super Cup in agonising defeat on penalties for the blues. A memorable match was against Ajax in the Champions League in which Zouma put in a hard performance and went on a tearing run in which surprised all the Chelsea fans including Frank Lampard, and had the Frenchman scored he may well be remembered forever!
Lampard had this to say after the Ajax match on Zouma: “Kurt had the bravery to step in with the ball,
“We like defenders to step in, but sometimes when they step in with too much pace it is a worry with the traffic they are going into, but he had the ability to dodge and double step over.”
Kurt Zouma is by no means a shining example of a top centre back, but his place should be firmly rooted still within the Chelsea squad and won’t be on Frank Lampard’s clearance list. There are exciting times to be a Chelsea fan, and with the recent developments of a Ben Chilwell deal looking most likely and the possibility of a Thiago Silva transfer, the defence is only being strengthened and may well force Zouma and the other centre backs to fight for their place should a player of Silva’s quality make a move to Stamford Bridge.