Jose Mourinho gave a massive show of confidence by picking Kurt Zouma ahead of more senior colleague Gary Cahill at centre-back against Manchester City on Tuesday, and he was not let down by the young defender.
The choice was considered a surprise, as everyone was expecting Cahill to come back alongside John Terry in defence after the England international was benched against Liverpool. It is true that Cahill was experiencing a dip in form in recent matches, yet he has been partnering Terry for such a long time that dropping him appeared a huge risk.
Despite playing well against Liverpool, Zouma is still an inexperienced 20-year-old, and had only started one other Premier League game before last Saturday. And remember that the Blues were playing against strong City side, who came to Stamford Bridge determined to do everything they could to narrow the five-point gap.
Yet Zouma turned out to be Man of the Match. Talking to BBC Sport after the match, former Liverpool midfielder Danny Murphy said Zouma reminded him of France legend Marcel Desailly with his power and presence. Murphy also praised Zouma's calmness, hailing it as his greatest quality, considering his age.
It is normal that defenders of Zouma's age usually let the adrenaline or the situation get the better of them. Against City, the former Saint-Etienne youngster made right decisions at right times, however. No rushed tackles, no stumbling, almost no bad pass - this is a young defender facing the likes of Sergio Aguero and David Silva!
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Zouma's brilliant performance also attracted attention from the fans and other football pundits. With the match reaching the end, his name was sung from the stands. Some even called him "the new Paolo Maldini". As if that was not enough, on social networks, they discussed about the day Zouma replaces Terry as the team's captain!
Good Progress Being Made
Only time will tell whether the France international could become Chelsea's captain or not. Yet it is not too soon to consider him the right man to partner Terry in the centre of Chelsea's defence.
With his athleticism and pace, in many ways Zouma is the perfect foil for Terry, who at 34 is not as quick as he was. Cahill, from now on, will have to fight hard if he wants to comeback to the first team.
With Chelsea's fans, the prospect of seeing Zouma alongside Terry every week is becoming more and more exciting. If Zouma was able to cope with Sterling's pace, Aguero's brilliance and Silva's genius, there is nothing he should be fearing.
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