Gianfranco Zola discusses sticking to our beliefs and Manchester United memories

Gianfranco Zola believes that while tweaks and slight alterations to our style of play are sometimes necessary, it’s important we remain true to our footballing philosophy.

The Blues welcome Manchester United to Stamford Bridge tonight in the FA Cup fifth round, aiming to get the better of the Red Devils in the competition for the third consecutive season.

Supporters have understandably been disappointed by some of our results of late, but Zola says implementing a whole new system, as Maurizio Sarri is trying to do this season, takes time.

‘How do you know we are not making changes?’ said our assistant first team coach, when asked why more alterations haven’t been made in recent weeks.

‘We are adjusting a few things, because I understand this is the Premier League, but without changing where we want to go. The direction is always the same. Two years ago you were probably asking the same question to Pep Guardiola. I do remember. Because I remember you were always asking him about playing out from the back. I remember the answers of Pep. He said this is not up for discussion, this is part of my game, I know I’m going through a difficult moment but I won’t change it.

‘Maybe he has changed it. I think Pep’s improved a lot because he’s got his team defending better, pressing better and attacking better, so he’s adapted but he hasn’t changed the way he sees football.

‘I think we are pretty much in a similar moment. There are a lot of questions about what we do. There are a lot of doubts about what we do but we are trying to adapt to the league and make some changes, but we don’t change the way we see football or what we believe is good for this club, otherwise we are nothing.

‘If you see the evolution of Manchester City from two years ago you admire what Pep has done, it’s a good inspiration because not everything comes together straight away, especially when you are very ambitious with what you want to do.’

Read: Zola on Man United, Giroud and an important spell

This evening’s game is the first of four important fixtures, across four different competitions, over the course of a 10-day period.

‘It’s the fifth round (of the FA Cup) and Carabao Cup final so they are very good targets,’ said Zola.

‘But there’s also the game against Tottenham and the Champions League is a big target for the club, of course.’

During his time as a Chelsea player, Zola enjoyed competing against Man United, and one of the matches which stands out in his mind is the 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge in 1996/97, when the Italian broke the deadlock early on with a superb solo goal.

‘Everybody kept talking to me two weeks beforehand about the game against Manchester United,’ he recalled.

‘It was always a difficult game against them. We played really well and went 1-0 up. We didn’t win but it felt like we were becoming competitive again and that was very important for the whole club.’


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