Eyebrows were raised when Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho dropped captain John Terry to replace him with Kurt Zouma for Saturday’s London derby with Arsenal.
However, the Special One’s decision was emphatically vindicated as Zouma opened the scoring in a 2-0 Premier League win for the Blues.
Zouma found the net on 53 minutes with a powerful header, set up by a precise free-kick from former Gunners skipper Cesc Fabregas.
Chelsea’s second came in second-half stoppage time. It was an own goal by Calum Chambers, who deflected Eden Hazard’s fierce strike past goalkeeper Petr Cech.
At the other end, Zouma was equally impressive, making three tackles and two clearances, as well as blocking two shots, according to Whoscored.com.
Zouma’s pace and positional ability kept Theo Walcott very quiet, while the France international looked composed and physically dominant throughout his 90-minute outing.
Chelsea’s goalscoring centre-back is just 20 years old, but he displayed incredible maturity on what was only his 11th Premier League start.
Zouma is clearly a lot faster than Terry – that is probably why he was preferred to the 34-year-old today.
However, Terry and Zouma are very similar in other areas.
Both men can provide an attacking threat in the air. Zouma has now scored three goals during his fledgling Chelsea career, while Terry has netted 65 times for his beloved Blues, including this effort against Arsenal in 2003.
Although Zouma’s strike against Arsenal was the key goal in the game, it was not the match’s major talking point, because the Gunners finished the contest with nine men, having had Gabriel and Santi Cazorla sent off.
The Brazilian defender was dismissed late in the first half for flicking out his heel in the direction of Diego Costa, who incredibly stayed on the pitch after assaulting Laurent Koscielny.
Cazorla’s red card came on 80 minutes, for a foul on Cesc Fabregas which was deemed worthy of a second yellow by referee Mike Dean.