With defensive midfield star Nemanja Matic suspended for the League Cup final thanks to his controversial red card against Burnley, Jose Mourinho had a big hole to replace in his starting lineup.
He went an unexpected route.
The Chelsea boss chose 20-year-old center-back Kurt Zouma to fill Matic’s shoes, and boy did he have himself a game at Wembley. Playing in front of the back four, he put in a composed performance, effectively cutting Harry Kane off from the rest of the Spurs squad.
“It’s very difficult for a central defender to play there, because they don’t have pressure from behind,” Mourinho said. “In that position you are surrounded by players and you have to think quicker. He’s our new Marcel Desailly.”
That’s quite high praise for Zouma, as Mourinho referred back to former Ghanan who made 158 league appearances for Chelsea from 1998-2004 and was versatile enough to serve in both a central defense and defensive midfield capacity.
“We were preparing him to play that role and the kid did a fantastic job for us,” Mourinho said. When lineups came out, it appeared that maybe the struggling Gary Cahill would be moved up in front of the back line, but as the teams trotted out onto the field, it was clear Mourinho had chosen Zouma. Needless to say, he was pleased with the decision to put Zouma in that position.
Finally, Mourinho praised the poise and composure of his team – something Zouma displayed particularly well – despite their overall youth. “We played to win. We changed the triangle in midfield, we pressed them well and I’m very happy. The game we played is that of a mature team, which is what we’re not.”
Also, this is what Mourinho thinks of your attempts to stop his Premier League leading side:
Nice try, Spurs. Come again soon.