Kurt Zouma Must Start for Leaky Chelsea for the Remainder of the Season

Kurt Zouma
Kurt Zouma was excellent against Watford | James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

Let's be honest. Chelsea's 3-0 win over Watford wasn't the most entertaining game you'll ever see.

Watford's inability (or perhaps straight-up refusal) to actually play football meant Chelsea were just passing the ball around for 90 minutes, so Frank Lampard's side controlled proceedings and strolled to victory thanks to goals from Olivier Giroud, Willian and Ross Barkley.

The Blues were about as impressive as they could be, with Mason Mount and Eden Haza-- sorry, Christian Pulisic both stealing the show, but one of the most exciting performances of the night came from centre-back Kurt Zouma.

Troy Deeney, Kurt Zouma
Zouma was one of Chelsea's top performers | Pool/Getty Images

Chelsea's defence this season will go down in infamy as one of the most unreliable in recent memory at Stamford Bridge. We saw in the 3-2 loss to West Ham just how much the Blues are terrified of winning headers when defending set pieces (a separate rant on that can be found here), with Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rüdiger both facing plenty of (deserved) criticism for their showings in that game.

Rüdiger's performance earned him a spot warming the bench against Watford, with Zouma the man chosen to replace him, and one moment in the 17th minute of the game proved exactly why Lampard turned to the Frenchman.

A long ball came from Watford's defence towards the towering Troy Deeney, whose aerial threat is the exact sort of thing which has terrorised Chelsea all year. But instead of allowing Deeney to win possession, Zouma locked his eyes on the ball, leapt high in the air, clattered Deeney and won the header.

Now, seeing Deeney left in a pile on the floor wasn't the greatest image, but it proved that Zouma is a defender with outstanding aerial ability who also possesses the bravery to do whatever it takes to win the ball. John Terry-esque.

As the game progressed, Zouma continued to eat up headers, showcasing elite vision and anticipation to go alongside his cheat code of a physique.

When you add in the fact he was comfortable in possession and reliable in the tackle, it quickly becomes clear that Zouma simply has to start for Chelsea for the rest of the season.

He might not be the most reliable passer overall, which does create doubts over his fit in Lampard's setup, but what Zouma does do is make up for the most glaring weakness in this Chelsea side - the lack of aerial threat.

Antonio Rudiger
Antonio Rudiger was dropped after struggling against West Ham | James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

When Chelsea have been bad, opponents have targeted the Blues' back line and profited from their fear of jumping at the right time. Even when the Blues have been good and scored goals, teams have stolen points by capitalising on Chelsea's weakness. West Ham did it, Newcastle did it and plenty of others have joined in too.

When Zouma is in the squad, that doesn't happen.

If you need proof of that. his last four appearances have brought clean sheets against Watford, Leicester, Liverpool and Everton. When he wasn't in the squad, only Burnley, Brighton and Nottingham Forest have failed to score against Chelsea.

Frank Lampard
Frank Lampard will have been impressed by Zouma's dominance | Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Zouma gives Chelsea the dynamic which they have been missing all year. Play him alongside Christensen and Reece James at the back and you've got the perfect blend of physical and technical gifts.

If Chelsea are going to keep their place in the top four, they need Zouma to lead by example. He did that against Watford, and Lampard will certainly have taken notice.

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