For all the talk these past couple of months of young players returning from being on loan last season and now ready to contribute at Chelsea, it can be overlooked that Kurt Zouma has taken a similar route recently.
At 24 years old, he is more senior than the likes of Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham, Fikayo Tomori and Reece James, and the primary reason he was at Everton in 2018/19 and Stoke the year before was to bring him properly up to speed following a serious knee injury, rather than to give him early first-team experience. He had after all played 74 games for Chelsea prior to his time at those two Premier League clubs.
But Kurt Zouma is relatively new to this particular Chelsea side, which he acknowledges is a work in progress.
‘We are improving a lot,’ the central defender says. ‘Last year there were some players out on loan who have come back, like me, so you need time to settle everything. We are getting better and better.
‘The young guys are here to bring something new, and the older guys are here to calm things down, stop the young guys getting too excited too quickly, and give advice on dealing with the pressure. We have a very strong team because we have that mix. It can be good for everyone.
‘We have a very young squad but they are talented at the same time. You can see all the guys, Fikayo, Tammy, Mason, Reece who started his first game, have no fear. They just play their football.
‘All the guys are ready to give advice and help. We are a team. For me they are ready to compete in every game. They will be very important to help the team keep going forward. They have the quality and you can see from the way they’re playing they’re doing very well.
‘We have a good mix of young and old, everybody speaks to everybody.’
- Kurt Zouma was among the goals against Grimsby...
On Sunday, the Blues will be looking to build upon the run of three wins in a row which was extended by victory back in Zouma’s native France, where we beat Lille in the Champions League.
‘It was a very important win after the defeat at home against Valencia,’ he says. ‘We wanted to bounce back and show in this group we can finish first. This is our target so we had to win and that’s what we did.
‘It felt special to be back in France. I like playing French teams because I understand what they are saying. I also have some friends in other teams, so to meet them again is good.
‘My father was at the game, he travelled three hours by train. My family has been behind me since I started when I was nine. Even if they don’t come to the game, they watch me on TV. We used to call each other after games.’
Ahead of the visit to Southampton as we return to Premier League action this weekend, Zouma accepts aspects of the Blues’ defending are areas where improvement can be made.
‘We are working harder [on that]. There is a lot of communication between us. We are conceding goals from set-pieces due to little details I would say, so we need to be more focused on details. We need to keep believing in ourselves and everything will be alright.’