Kurt Zouma has established himself as one of Frank Lampard’s most trusted players this season having secured the status of first choice centre back partner to Thiago Silva following the Brazilian’s arrival at Chelsea in the summer.
That was demonstrated by the manager picking Zouma to play in the FA Cup tie against Morecambe on Sunday when Lampard needed a result to slightly ease the pressure that has been building on his position after a run of one win in six Premier League games.
The French defender was entrusted to partner Antonio Rudiger at the heart of the Blues defence that kept a clean sheet in the 4-0 victory as Chelsea set up a fourth round tie against Luton Town of the Championship in a couple of weeks time.
Lampard has five centre backs currently at his disposal, a number that he wants to cut down in the January transfer window, but Zouma is firmly the manager’s first choice alongside Silva for the foreseeable future.
The Blues have kept six clean sheets so far this season in the Premier League, Zouma has played in five of them and partnered Silva in all five, the only exception being when the Brazilian missed the 2-0 win at Newcastle.
After Chelsea’s defensive struggles in 2019/20 in Lampard’s first season as manager when the Blues conceded 54 goals which was by far the worst in the top ten of the standings, they have improved drastically this season to this point.
The French defender has opened up on his partnership with Silva, who arrived on a one-year deal as a free transfer from Paris St Germain but is likely to extend that stay further.
Zouma told Chelsea’s official website : “He’s a very calm guy. He has got experience. He knows the game very well.
“He has won a lot of trophies. His positioning is always good defensively when we don’t have the ball, and with the ball he can find passes.
“He is also a leader in the team, so there are many things to learn off him.”
Loan spells at Stoke City and Everton helped Zouma settle into life in the Premier League before heading back to Stamford Bridge to establish himself as a first team player with 2020/21 arguably being a real breakthrough campaign for the 26-year-old, who has his peak and prime years still ahead of him.
“Air Zouma” has also scored four goals so far this season, already three more than he managed in the entirety of the last campaign as he has become a huge weapon for Chelsea from set pieces.
Not that Zouma seems to be fussed by it as, at the end of the day, it is more about protecting his own goal rather than netting at the other end.
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“There is nothing special really,” Zouma added of his newfound goalscoring prowess.
“I feel more confident in myself. The technical staff put more confidence and trust in me. Now when there is a corner I know I can score and have the feeling 100 per cent I can make a difference.
“Also, the guy who takes the set-piece is trying to look for me a bit more. It’s about determination, motivation and confidence.”