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Zola: Thinking it through

Gianfranco Zola has discussed the prospects of two Chelsea players at different stages of their careers, and as a former forward himself he has also given Alvaro Morata some advice.

The January transfer window is now open and the Blues have already moved to sign Christian Pulisic, the Borussia Dortmund attacking midfielder who will join in the summer. There has been talk about some possible outgoings, too, including Gary Cahill, the longest-serving member of the squad.

Whatever happens, Zola has nothing but respect for the club captain.

‘Gary has been outstanding,’ he said.

‘I never worked with him before, but I knew from the outside everybody rated him very highly as a professional and as a person. There is this possibility [of him leaving], and there is no doubt it would be a big loss for us.

‘It could be a good move for him. His contract expires in six months and he has to look after himself. From what I have come to know about him, I really wish he is going to do extremely well.’

Zola spoke at length yesterday about Callum Hudson-Odoi’s chances of breaking into the team, and when considering the situation further he noted the current age of our wingers and stressed Maurizio Sarri’s determination to get the best out of the young talent at his disposal.

‘This coach likes to work with young players and improves them day by day. Callum can improve here and we are going to spend time to make him better, and if he stays here I am sure he will play games. If he keeps improving the way he is improving, he will play, and he will play a lot.

‘We have two players, very good players but they are both over 30: Pedro and Willian. We value them a lot but we know there will be a moment in which probably Callum is going to come and overtake them. It’s important to think about this.

‘He has to think long-term,’ Zola continued. ‘I know it’s very difficult when you are young and you think about what is going to happen tomorrow, but you have to be thinking after that.

‘You have already started a process in which you have to probably wait a little bit, but I wouldn’t say too long. Or the alternative is to go somewhere else, and it will be the same. You will have to start again. You think you are going to go to a big team and go straight into the team, but it doesn’t work that way.’

One player who counts big teams like Real Madrid and Juventus among his former clubs is Alvaro Morata, the striker who returned to action during the midweek draw against Southampton, when he was unfortunate to see a goal disallowed for offside.

Speaking from his experiences as a forward player, if not necessarily a man tasked with leading the attack on his own, Zola explained what areas the Spaniard can improve in and how he can go about doing that.

‘I wasn’t a main striker, so I was a little bit relieved by that,’ laughed Zola.

‘I remember when I didn’t score for a while it was a problem, because the first thing you try to do is to score more! I know he feels a lot of responsibility because he doesn’t score enough, but he has to learn to put everything behind him, because these are only burdens you take on the pitch and they don’t help you perform better.

‘I totally understand his frustrations and feelings, but we need to deal with this and come up with a solution that allow him to play at his standards. 

‘You are at Chelsea, people expect a lot from a no.9 at Chelsea,’ added Zola. ‘This is normal. Alvaro has to get used to it, but if he goes to another big club it’s going to be the same. There is no way you can avoid your responsibilities. It’s part of your job. 

‘We thought he was the perfect no.9 for us. This is the reason why we invested a lot in him this year. Maurizio always said that. Technically he is without doubt one of the best in his position.

‘He has to improve a little bit tactically. Nowadays football is so organised you need to get better tactically. Your ability itself is not enough. But Alvaro has been working on that. He has a good attitude.’

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