After a couple of below par performances from Gary Cahill in the Premier League, the centre-back is now finding it very difficult to get into the Chelsea team due to a rather talented 20-year-old taking his place. Since Kurt Zouma has been given the opportunity to play frequently in the Chelsea back four, he has looked a class act.
Against Liverpool in the Capital One Cup semi-final return leg, Zouma handled the pace and movement of Raheem Sterling brilliantly, something that few defenders can claim to have done this season. At times it looked as if the Liverpool forward might have got the better of Zouma, but the sheer pace of the centre-back allowed him to recover and make tackles to interrupt Liverpool’s momentum.
A similar story occurred in Chelsea’s 1-1 game with Manchester City at Stamford Bridge. Zouma looked a composed figure and was not afraid to put a challenge in when needed. Although he is just 20-years-old, he displays a remarkable amount of maturity at the back. Zouma is composed on the ball and can play out from defence. It isn’t necessarily the fact that Gary Cahill is playing poorly for Chelsea – yes, he had a couple of displays which were questionable – but it’s more a case of Kurt Zouma’s exceptional quality that is keeping Cahill out of the starting eleven.
In five Premier League games so far this season, Zouma is yet to make a major defensive error and has won an excellent 80% of aerial duels he has contested. The French U-21 international is an imposing figure in the air and has an excellent leap that allows him to out-jump opponents. With his aerial dominance, pace and defensive positioning; he is sure to be a star for years to come at Stamford Bridge.
Although Zouma deserves credit for his impact at Cheslea, what does this mean for Gary Cahill? Since the Frencham has exploded onto the scene, Cahill has barely had the chance to convince Mourinho that he is still the better option in the centre of defence. Cahill’s omission from the starting eleven is also bad news for England, with Roy Hodgson unlikely to be too pleased that his first choice centre-back is not playing Premier League football due to a 20-year-old.
Hopefully, Gary Cahill gets the chance to cement his place back into the Chelsea side. A similar story happened with Joe Hart and Manchester City, but the goalkeeper has since returned to City’s starting eleven.
Cahill still has the quality to play at the highest level and Mourinho is bound to give him another chance. The club have also stressed that Cahill has not actually been dropped from the side despite Zouma’s introduction to first team football. Although this may be the case, Cahill will be anxious to play regularly once again despite the impressive impact Zouma has made for the West London club so far.