Kurt Zouma’s case for Chelsea defence, Tammy Abraham’s relief and that Christian Pulisic moment
This was Chelsea’s fifth straight win in a row when Kurt Zouma has started in defence. The previous four were clean sheets and he marked last night’s with perhaps the tackle of the season.
The 25-year-old possesses the physical attributes Frank Lampard spoke about after the defeat to West Ham when it comes to dead balls. He is also a threat on the attacking end (as shown in either half last night) and made that win-saving challenge to deny Christian Benteke in added time.
Zouma’s timing needed to be flawless as Benteke unleashed a shot destined for goal – sliding in just in time to deny the Belgian and save his team two points.
“Yes, it was fantastic from Kurt,” Lampard said. “I think at Watford he played a really great game as well.
“Imposing for his defending and good on the ball. That’s everything I want and defenders might not always get credit for those sort of moments. Goalscorers get those but it was definitely a goal saving tackle at the end. It saves us those two points. I am really pleased with him.”
There are a lot of questions and uncertainties around Chelsea’s defence and the collective did not cover itself in glory against Roy Hodgson’s team but on almost every metric the France international should be first-choice.
Who his partner deserves to be remains to be seen.
Lampard was also pleased to see Tammy Abraham get back on the scoresheet for the first time since January.
The England striker’s relief was clear when he found the net following a clever assist from fellow substitute Ruben Loftus-Cheek, looking to the heaven’s and sighing.
“It was really important for Tammy to score,” the head coach said. “He is desperate for goals.”
The next task is for him to do it regularly but with Olivier Giroud scoring the opener he may need to be patient to earn the starting place back.
On the flip side Lampard was less impressed by the late concession of a corner, Palace’s seventh and final one, and turned around and kicked a bottle out of frustration. Clearly set pieces are still a cause for some angst but the Blues did OK at dealing with an imposing Palace side last night.
Kepa punched one, Kurt Zouma cleared another and Reece James, whose position was not the best in open play, said farewell to the danger from another two. It is an area that they will keep having to work on.
This is beginning to sound like a broken record but how good was Christian Pulisic again?
The near-post finish for his goal was that of a player oozing with belief and he was a constant menace against Palace’s defence, with Cheikou Kouyate comically resorting to rugby tackling the American late on. That moment really summed up how opponents are struggling to get to grips with him.
Pulisic has become must-watch for neutrals and probably Chelsea’s most important player since the restart.
Lampard’s latest assessment was to the point: “The top players in the world in his area, attacking players, they score goals, win games and make a difference. They assist. Since the restart he has been fantastic.”