Picking a Chelsea Line-Up to Get the Best out of New Signing Kurt Zouma

Garry HayesFeatured ColumnistJanuary 31, 2014


It's been a month of gossip—31 long days of Chinese whispers and predictions as to who is going where and for how much.

But now the winter transfer window is shut, bringing the curtain down on a busy month for Chelsea.

Jose Mourinho had intimated it would be on the contrary, but the past few weeks have seen Stamford Bridge a hive of activity with three players joining the Blues and another three departing.

Kurt Zouma was the latest addition, joining for around £12 million from Saint Etienne on deadline day. He joins Nemanja Matic and Mohamed Salah as Chelsea's new recruits.

The French defender will have to wait until the summer before he is fully acquainted with his new teammates though, as he is moving back to Saint Etienne on loan for the remainder of 2013-14.

It means Mourinho will have plenty of time to consider where the 19-year-old will feature in his line-up, although Zouma has a big challenge ahead of him if he is to dislodge Gary Cahill, David Luiz or John Terry in the starting line-up.

Zouma is a talented player, one who boasts the potential to go on and achieve much in the game.

Lionel Cironneau/Associated Press

However, his relative inexperience will mean Chelsea overcompensating in some areas should he start as a regular. It will require Mourinho giving the youngster a relative amount of protection to ensure he can flourish.

Zouma's appearances in Ligue 1 this term have reaffirmed his attributes, yet in the process,  they have highlighted his weakness—namely his tackling.

For a centre-back, he has much to improve and in the Premier League, Zouma will be exposed if his ability in the tackle doesn't improve.

The Frenchman will need protection to ensure he isn't isolated, a factor that will come from those in front of him as much as his defensive partner. Mourinho is building his midfield pivot around Matic, so the Serbian will become more of an influence in the coming weeks.


He will be essential to Zouma's development in the Chelsea team next term also, helping shield the back four from danger.

It's a similar situation with John Terry. The Chelsea captain is his club's most experienced defender, a real stalwart in every sense of the term. His presence, guiding Zouma through his early matches, will bring the Frenchman confidence and ensure he is guided in the right direction.

What Mourinho will have seen in Zouma, too, is his ability to get the ball moving from the back. He has consistently shown his ability with the ball at his feet and, given Chelsea's counter-attacking nature, he will give plenty going forward.

Whether that's feeding it out wide to the full-backs or through the middle, the attacking instincts of Ramires, Cesar Azpilicueta and Ashley Cole will always give him options to release.

At such a young age, Zouma remains a raw talent, but with the right line-up, his chances of producing his best in a Chelsea shirt will be significant.


Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @garryhayes