Why Chelsea did the right thing by holding on to Kurt Zouma in the summer
Everton were among the frontrunners for the centre-back’s signature, following his successful loan spell at Goodison Park. Several other Premier League clubs had also expressed an interest in the Frenchman’s services. (h/t Daily Mail)
However, with the transfer ban looming large and preventing any new arrival from coming through the door at Stamford Bridge, Lampard retained Kurt Zouma. As a result, the 25-year-old is playing an important first-team role at Chelsea this term.
The Frenchman has established himself as a regular fixture in the Premier League, resurrecting his career successfully at Stamford Bridge.
Having made his move to Chelsea from French outfit Saint-Etienne as a bright teenage prospect back in January 2014, things haven’t always been rosy for Zouma in West London.
The Frenchman enjoyed a fruitful 2015-16 season but he once again fell out of favour following an anterior cruciate ligament injury that forced him out of action for six months.
Zouma’s time at Stamford Bridge was surely heading towards uncertainly after serving back-to-back loan spells at Stoke City and Everton, but Lampard’s faith in his abilities has gone a long way towards helping him re-establish himself as one of the key players at the club.
While academy graduates like Mason Mount, Fikayo Tomori and Tammy Abraham have stolen much of the limelight with their raging success in the Premier League, Lampard’s new philosophy has also worked its magic on Zouma.
The 25-year-old has already made a total of 16 appearances for the Blues in all competitions this season, starting each of the club’s first three group games in the UEFA Champions League.
Zouma has started each of Chelsea’s last eight games across all competitions and he put in a solid shift at the heart of the defence alongside Tomori to guide his team to a 2-1 victory over Watford.
Interestingly, with the transfer embargo in place, Chelsea could have found themselves in a grave defensive crisis by selling Zouma in the summer.
The likes of Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger have graced the treatment table more often than not and it is largely due to Zouma that Lampard has been able to put forward a decent-looking XI in the Premier League.
Notwithstanding the fact that the focus has been on Tomori’s rapid transition from the academy to the senior side, Zouma has gone about his business without much fuss, putting in some consistently impressive shifts at the back.
The Blues looked vulnerable at the back early in the campaign and, to that end, Zouma’s rich vein of form has been instrumental in the turnaround of the club’s defensive numbers over the past month-and-a-half, with Chelsea enjoying back-to-back clean-sheets against Ajax and Newcastle United.
Zouma’s impressive displays this season have been well backed up by the numbers. As per whoscored, the Frenchman has averaged 4.4 aerial duels and 4.6 clearances per game in the Premier League, including a pass success percentage of 86.3% and 4.1 long balls.
Those figures clearly underpin his abilities as a powerful modern-day ball-playing defender.
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Suffice to say, Lampard’s decision to hold on to Kurt Zouma this summer has gone a long way towards preventing a potentially unhealthy situation at the back.
Now, if the Frenchman continues to impress in the years to come, they would be hugely indebted to their club-legend-cum-manager for giving the 25-year-old a new lease of life at Stamford Bridge.