After watching the Blues sail into the fifth round of the FA Cup with victory over Sheffield Wednesday, Gianfranco Zola answered questions on Gonzalo Higuain, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
The assistant first team coach was on media duty following this evening’s 3-0 win, when a Willian brace sandwiched a fine strike from Hudson-Odoi.
Amid rumours the 18-year-old has handed in a transfer request, and with Blues fans having expressed their wish for him to remain in west London, Zola explained the situation from the management’s perspective.
‘We want him to stay, we were singing as well!’ he laughed.
‘I don’t know if he will stay. We want him to stay, he has a contract, we are playing him, we believe in what he can do for this team.
‘There are not many 18 year olds in Europe who are playing as much as he is in a big team. That shows we believe him, we think he can be an important player for us, so we will see what happens.
‘We can do as much as we can do. He has a lot of strong players around him but we are still finding space to play him.
‘If we played him it’s because yesterday in training his attitude was excellent. He really played well. He scored a fantastic goal in training yesterday too. He didn’t show any signs which is why he played today.’
Zola was asked if he can guarantee Hudson-Odoi won’t be sold this month
‘I’m not the club. I just work for the club. I can do as much as I can, but these are decisions that belong to me. There is certainly a good understanding between the club and the management, but I cannot say more than that at the end of the day.’
Higuain played just over 80 minutes on his Chelsea debut
‘Considering it was his first game, you will see more from him. A couple of times in the first half he made some great moves into space and he nearly got the right ball.
‘I’m personally satisfied with him, but he’s going to get better because he needs to build up an understanding with the others. Sometimes in the first half he was making movement, but we couldn’t see his movement and it’s something we need to improve.’
Loftus-Cheek made his return from a back injury in the second half
‘It was very pleasing. Ruben is a player who has qualities that will be very important for us. I’m pleased because he had to pull out in a moment in which he was getting better and better and better.
‘It’s a pity because it’s the story of this player. He gets to a very high point and then he has problems and has to start again.
‘I feel for him, but pleased to see him back and he did well when he came on.’
VAR was used to overturn a Sheffield Wednesday penalty awarded at 0-0
‘I personally like it. It kills the margin of error. It’s a great help for the referee. It’s an instrument that has to be used properly. I believe in it.’