Chelsea are currently first in the Premier League table and that is mainly because of their team efforts. But as the season passed the team became vulnerable and especially in the back four as they conceded many sloppy goals against teams like Newcastle and Tottenham. Ivanovic and Cahill were blamed for this but the accusations were genuine and as a result Gary Cahill was dropped and replaced by the 20 year old French International Kurt Zouma, and as a shocker Zouma is doing a great job in defense with the help of Terry. Zouma got his first big chance against Manchester City in late January and since then he has never failed to impress. So Let us now understand why Zouma has replaced Cahill and does he have enough potential to cement his position in Chelsea’s back four.
Zouma’s Playing Style
Zouma for a defender of his age is more mature, calm and composed with excellent game sense. He is a perfectly versatile defender who fits in any role in the middle of the defense. His major strengths are his aerial abilities with the likes of which he clears the ball and also scores goals, excellent pace, perfectly timed tackling and he is an excellent reader of the game who has brilliant game sense and is on his toes for the whole 90 minutes. As of now he does not have any significant weakness or his weaknesses are not yet exposed because he has not played many games.
As mentioned above Zouma is a versatile defender and is also a very good reader and such defenders can be played against any team. But his comfort zone is against counter attacking teams and especially during end to end football. Zouma is a textbook last man who easily chases, outpaces and then out muscles the attacker in order to get the ball back. His strengths are used to the fullest in Chelsea’s pressing game as he is very good at dispossessing the opponent which is another reason why Jose admires him.
Zouma Vs Cahill
Cahill is a typical back foot defender with very limited set of skills but he is the master of those skills. When a defender plays on the back foot his job is to anticipate for the attacker to come close to the 18 yard box and then the defender is supposed to take some actions. But Cahill plays on the back foot because he lacks pace and he rarely dives into tackles. All he does is either block the shot or clear the ball and then pass it ahead. A defender like Cahill cannot be deployed with Terry because Terry also lacks pace these days which keeps both of the center halves on the back foot and this turns out to be a disaster against a team which is constantly counter attacking for example Spurs, here Cahill was easily outclassed by Harry Kane mainly because of his quick movements and pace which left Cahill on the ground. While Terry cannot be benched because of his far-flung experience in every competition and presence of him is highly influential for the players.
The duo of Zouma and Terry is somewhat an ideal partnership in defense with one guiding and orchestrating while other working. Terry’s job nowadays is to stay on the pitch as an influential figure, organize the defense while corners and set pieces, block the shots and clear the ball. Here Zouma does exactly what Terry tells him to do. In a team where the fullbacks are involved in pressing opposition’s attack you need someone to stand in the defense as a last man and that ‘Last Man’ is Zouma. When a team launches a counter attack neither of Terry or Cahill are successful in dealing with it but Zouma with the likes of his pace and the strengths mentioned above easily breaks the attack and gets the ball back. Zouma is also helpful when the opposition is pressing as he has the ability to clear the ball and block the shots.
Cahill is the master of one trade while Zouma is the jack of all trades and master of some, hence there is no doubt over which of these two is needed more. Zouma has everything it takes to be an ideal defender, which is the reason why he is slowly cementing his place and Cahill’s spot becoming dicey. Zouma will definitely get a spot in Mourinho’s plan now and also in future while Cahill also will get chances but his limitations will keep him away from field. Next season the chances of Chelsea signing another center back are quiet high, which will be another blow for Cahill. But as of now we don’t know what the future holds and whose playing where and when.