Kurt Zouma has been one of Chelsea’s standout performers this season, and in this exclusive interview he tells us about feeling settled at Stamford Bridge again, his development over the years and the key to his recent goalscoring exploits.
Zouma featured more often than any other centre-back last season and it is a similar story this term, with the French defender playing all but two league fixtures so far. His form has been excellent and hasn’t gone unnoticed by Didier Deschamps, who has recalled him to the France national team.
In our latest 10 Questions with… feature Zouma discusses goalscoring, getting back to his best and going for more…
Kurt, is this the most settled you have felt since joining Chelsea in 2014?
Maybe, yeah, but I felt settled from the moment I arrived. Then I had the injury and had to go on loan, but I now I feel very settled again just like I did when I joined.
How much do you think Chelsea as a club has changed since you arrived in 2014?
It feels like the same place, really, just the players and the manager had changed.
And in what ways do you think you have developed as a player and a person?
When I arrived I was very young, just 19, and coming to a new country, so I was learning everything. As a man I grew up, I had children. Now I am getting more experienced; when I look around and see the young guys in the team you can say I’m almost old now!
I have developed in every aspect, even mentally. I have learned to deal with things when they are going well and when they are going not so well. I have learned the work you need to put in every day, the time you have to spend in the gym.
I think I have improved my game too, tactically and physically, and now I am even scoring some goals, hopefully it keeps going like that.
How important was the long contract you were given in 2017, before your loan to Stoke, in making you feel like Chelsea still wanted you?
I had been injured for a long time and the club gave me a chance to go on loan, improve, and show that I could come back. It was a test to see if I could come back and make it again in the Chelsea team. I was grateful for that.
When I went on loan it wasn’t easy, but I enjoyed being back on the pitch and playing football. That period helped me a lot to come back in the Chelsea team.
So the contract helped me a lot. For some players, sometimes you don’t know if you’re going to come back or not. But I was convinced 100 per cent I was going to come back.
What is the key to your good form this season?
Training, and my team-mates. They help me out a lot with technical stuff and giving me advice.
What have you learned off Thiago Silva?
He’s a very calm guy. He has got experience. He knows the game very well. He has won a lot of trophies. His positioning is always good defensively when we don’t have the ball, and with the ball he can find passes. He is also a leader in the team, so there are many things to learn off him.
You’ve already scored four league goals this season. What is your strategy attacking corners and free-kicks?
There is nothing special really. I feel more confident in myself. The technical staff put more confidence and trust in me. Now when there is a corner I know I can score and have the feeling 100 per cent I can make a difference. Also, the guy who takes the set-piece is trying to look for me a bit more. It’s about determination, motivation and confidence.
How do you manage to hang in the air so long?!
I don’t know, honestly! I was just born like that I think!
What are you thinking about when you go to head the ball?
Get a good contact first but at the same time guide it to make sure it’s on target. I know if I put power on there and it’s on target it’s going to be very dangerous.
Have you set a goals tally for the season?! John Terry posted on your Instagram recently saying you’re catching him up…
Yes I saw that, I’m catching him up, slowly, slowly, but you have to keep doing it!
I don’t have a target for goals this season, honestly. I just want to win as many games as I can and get a trophy, because Chelsea is there to win trophies.