27 October 2019 22:32
Kurt Happy "birthday" Zouma had a rough start to the season but has sense rebounded greatly. He is one of Chelsea's best stories this season. Kurt Zouma's time since his injury was not the best. While he was still clearly a Premier League quality defender, his time at Stoke City and Everton showed a player that was not quite where he was before his injury. He could still get the job done, but there were rightly questions about his ability for a top six club like Chelsea.
The initial showings did little to quiet those questions. A rough preseason gave way to a few rough early appearances for Chelsea. With a battle against Andreas Christensen, Antonio Rudiger, and eventually Fikayo Tomori, it appeared Zouma would ultimately be the odd man out. But the more he played, in part because of Rudiger and Christensen's injuries, the more sound he became. And the more sound he became, the more he looked like the old Zouma before his nasty injury. There are a lot of great stories about Chelsea this season but Zouma's is right up there with the best of them. It is worth remembering how great Zouma was before that injury to put his current form into context. Jose Mourinho who has the (earned) reputation of not giving youth a chance was more than willing to put Zouma into his lineup. In what was an otherwise disastrous 2015/2016 season, Zouma was a highlight. Until his injury anyways. His injury was, quite simply, sickening. It was no one's fault as he simply landed the wrong way off of a jump. But it robbed him of not only the remainder of that season, but nearly the entirety of the next season too. And arguably, it took the majority of two years on loan to settle into something close to where he was. Frank Lampard offered him a chance this season as Everton were keen to keep hold of the Frenchman. Zouma would have known it would be difficult being one of the "new" guys in the squad, but he accepted the challenge. And though Christensen and Rudiger's injuries did offer opportunity, it cannot be dismissed that Zouma has taken it and has not let go. His partnership with Tomori has been particularly great. It is always good to have a balance between pairs on the field and Zouma offers the steel to Tomori's silk. Even his passing, which has often been criticized, has been more than fine for the task given to him. But it is his tackling in particular that remains a standout feature of his game. Few strikers want to try to beat Zouma one on one. It remains to be seen where he exists in the team once all the center backs are fit again. Based on current form it would be very hard to knock Zouma out of the lineup. But one of the most important parts of Lampard's management has been fielding teams based on merit. And as things currently stand, that will work out more than fine for the big French center back.