Frank Lampard says he will hand every first-team player a fresh opportunity following his appointment as Chelsea manager.
The Blues boss has emphasised that he doesn’t want to prejudge anyone and will give everyone the chance to impress during pre-season:
“I would be a fool to come here with ideas about freezing anybody out. I want to get the best out of the squad. Everybody has an opportunity, I have no preconceived ideas about anybody. I have got good knowledge of the squad but I need to see them over the next month.”
One of those who will want to make the most of his opportunity is Kurt Zouma. Since arriving from Saint-Etienne, his career at Stamford Bridge has been stop-start.
Following a year’s loan back at the French club, he came into the squad with Jose Mourinho’s poised for a title challenge, and he found it very difficult to break up the formidable defensive partnership of Gary Cahill and John Terry.
Zouma was, though, given more starts the following season, but unfortunately for him, it coincided with the implosion of the legendary Chelsea manager’s second spell in charge.
The campaign got even worse for the defender when he suffered a serious knee injury in the 1-1 draw against Manchester United early in the New Year.
It meant Zouma started on the back foot following Antonio Conte’s appointment as head coach. The centre-half could have easily slotted into the Italian’s back three but his return to fitness meant he was only back in the first-team fold by December.
With Cesar Azpilicueta, Cahill and David Luiz the three trusted centre-backs, the Frenchman barely got a look in during the second half of the title-winning campaign.
To get more game time, then, it was inevitable that Zouma would be loaned out the following season, which he duly was to Stoke City. He was, though, unable to stop the Potters’ slide into the Championship, which likely influenced Maurizio Sarri’s thinking to send him back out on loan last campaign to Everton.
However, at the Toffees, the Frenchman began to mature as a centre-half. The Merseyside club did concede 46 goals but Zouma had to cope with a number of different centre-back partners.
When manager Marco Silva finally settled on Michael Keane, the pairing finished the season with an excellent defensive record. With that new-found confidence and belief, Zouma will be hoping to make his breakthrough at Chelsea.
The club’s transfer ban means it’s unlikely that he’ll be sold this summer, although Everton have reportedly considered a £30m offer for him.
Zouma can also take advantage of Antonio Rudiger’s knee injury which could see him miss the start of next season, and with Andreas Christensen having looked quite shaky at the back end of last campaign, the Frenchman does have a chance of claiming a starting place alongside David Luiz for the opening clash against United.
If the 24-year-old can’t make the breakthrough under Lampard now, he is highly unlikely to make it as a regular first-team player at the club. Let’s see if he takes this golden chance.