Kurt Zouma and Eden Hazard scored the goals to help Chelsea settle a controversial 2-0 victory over local rivals Arsenal.
Gabriel and Santi Cazorla were both shown red cards, which altered the attention of the media post-match towards referee Mike Dean. The game could be summarized by viewing the erratic behaviour of Diego Costa, who could have been sent-off on three separate occasions.
Chelsea approached the game as a “must win” to sustain their retention of the Premier League title. The victory moved Jose Mourinho’s side to within eight points of Manchester City who were surprisingly beaten 2-1 at the Etihad by West Ham United.
Mourinho selected Branislav Ivanovic as captain on the day, despite his dismal start to the campaign. He also dropped John Terry to the bench, in favour of a Zouma and Gary Cahill partnership. Ivanovic missed Chelsea’s 4-0 victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv, but Mourinho’s faith was restored as the Blues eased to victory in the end.
Aside from the nonsense of two sending-offs and Diego Costa’s antics, it was Zouma who stole the show on a performance basis. The 20-year-old Frenchman utilized his pace and power throughout the game to cancel out all of Arsenal’s attacking threat.
Zouma’s performance included one of the greatest tackles of the season. Theo Walcott looked as though he was clean through on goal as he breezed past Chelsea’s defence on the stroke of half-time, only for Zouma to burst onto the scene and produce a crunching tackle to pry the ball clear of Walcott’s stride.
In the 53rd minute, Zouma stormed in at the back post to head home Cesc Fabregas’ free-kick and the game looked finished. Arsenal had already been reduced to ten-men and Stamford Bridge erupted into fever pitch after Zouma stormed away in celebration.
Arsenal came back into it, only for Cazorla to make a silly tackle on Fabregas to earn a second-bookable offence. Hazard sealed the game as his deflected shot cannoned off Calum Chambers past a helpless Petr Cech.
According to Squawka’s statistics, Zouma succesfully won 100% of his three attempted tackles, whilst also winning 100% of his two headers in the game. Zouma also made two blocks and two clearances to prevent Arsenal having a sniff of a chance.
Zouma produced a star-making performance against Arsenal, with his opening goal being rightfully applauded by Terry. The images of Terry applauding Zouma signified a changing of the guard at Chelsea. Zouma’s electric pace and brute strength are destined to make him one of the best centre-backs in the world and a future Chelsea captain.