Ahead of our match against Krasnodar, Kurt Zouma says there is more to come from this Chelsea side, which will continue to improve the longer they work together.
Our last two fixtures have seen a noticeable defensive improvement for the Blues as we kept back-to-back clean sheets against Sevilla and Manchester United. The French centre-back is pleased with the way we shut out our opponents in those matches and puts it down to our new players starting to settle into the side, and feels we will soon start turning the draws into wins as that process continues.
‘Everyone’s been training hard,’ he said. ‘We played these two great opponents, but defensively we did a great job. I think in the last two games we’ve been doing great. I think the communication’s been better too.
‘Also I think just the lads made a really big effort to keep the clean sheet and everyone, we’re all going the same way and we know each other better now. There’s a lot of new players that came in, and with the players that were here last season, the mix has to come quicker. We don’t have time to prepare a lot, we have a short time in training because there’s many, many games coming, but we will get there soon hopefully and we just need to enjoy ourselves.
‘I don’t think we can talk about turning a corner defensively, we’ve just been doing our job. We’re trying to do the best that we can in every game and obviously in the last two games we did good, we had clean sheets, but that’s only two games so we just want to keep doing that and good things come with hard work. We just have to keep working hard to get there.’
Those two previous clean sheets both came with Zouma playing alongside Thiago Silva at the centre of our defence. The Brazilian will miss the match in Russia, but Zouma insists the team don’t have anything to prove in his absence as our defensive improvement has been a team effort.
‘We’ve got quality everywhere. Of course Thiago Silva has been doing good since he came, but also before he wasn’t here and we’d been doing good too. There’s nothing to prove, we just came here to win the game as a team, so there’s nothing to prove for us.’
This match comes in a busy period of the schedule with two games a week between the Champions League and Premier League squeezed between two international breaks. Although the defender admits it can be gruelling on the body, the chance to represent the Blues more than makes up for it.
‘We enjoy playing football. We all love playing for Chelsea, but obviously physically it is difficult because there is so many games and travelling and hotels, but that’s the job. That’s what we’re here for, to play football, to enjoy it. So we don’t think too much about it, we just enjoy the games and that can be good for everyone, because there’s so many games and everyone can play.’
That travelling also means Zouma is away from home on his birthday for this trip to face Krasnodar, as he turns 26 today. However, he says age is just a number within this close knit and young Chelsea squad.
‘I see the young lads come in and naturally I try to speak to the younger lads, but in this group we are lucky because everyone understands each other and I think we don’t put the age ahead of everything. Everyone understands each other, everyone talks to each other, which is very great and that will bring us very far.’
And what would Zouma see as the ideal present for his 26th birthday in Russia?
‘Just a clean sheet and a win,’ he said, with his trademark wide grin. ‘That would be perfect for me, the best gift I could have!’