What Kurt Zouma shouted at Hakim Ziyech as N’Golo Kante absence against Arsenal is explained

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Why N’Golo Kante was absent against Arsenal

The French midfielder has become the ultimate big-game player for Chelsea this season. Kante’s performances in the Champions League knockout stages have been outstanding, as have his displays against the best in the Premier League.

So with an FA Cup final to come on Saturday against Leicester City at Wembley Stadium, it was no great surprise that Kante wasn’t included in the Blues side against Arsenal last night.

What did raise an eyebrow or two was that Kante wasn’t included in the matchday squad at all, which meant Thomas Tuchel didn’t have a natural alternative to Billy Gilmour or Jorginho on the substitutes’ bench to call upon if needed.

Chelsea could have done with Kante against Arsenal in truth. Jorginho was poor and Gilmour was sacrificed at half time with the Blues a goal behind. Mason Mount was dropped back into the double six in the second period and didn’t have much of an impact.

Yet the decision to omit Kante from the squad for the visit of Mikel Arteta’s side was one forced upon Tuchel. As the German head coach explained after the game.

“N’Golo [missed the game] because of pain management,” Tuchel told the 5th Stand App after the defeat to the Gunners.

“He has pain in his Achilles and he suffers from that. So there was no chance. We missed [Mateo] Kovacic and now we didn’t have N’Golo on the bench and that was a huge blow for us in terms of intensity and attitude.”

Antonio Rudiger’s importance highlighted

Kante wasn’t the only regular who was absent against the Gunners. Antonio Rudiger – who has been playing in a face mask over the past two weeks due to a broken jaw suffered against Real Madrid – was also not included in the matchday squad.

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Tuchel admitted after the 1-0 defeat the German missed out as a precaution; the coaching and medical staff didn’t want the 28-year-old to be overloaded, especially given Andreas Christensen is currently ruled out with a hamstring injury.

Rudiger has become a key part of Chelsea’s side under Tuchel – he has made the left-sided centre-back spot his own following the arrival of the 47-year-old coach at the end of January.

His absence against Arsenal was highlighted by the fact his replacement, Kurt Zouma, was targeted by Arteta’s side. The Frenchman was the pressing trigger, the man who Arsenal moved in on when he received possession from Kepa Arrizabalga or another teammate.

Zouma wasn’t a fault for the Arsenal goal; Jorginho will have to take the blame for that. Yet it was another occasion that the Blues’ backline has been breached in the absence of Rudiger this term.

Per OptaJoe, Chelsea have conceded just seven Premier League goals in the 17 matches that Rudiger has started (0.4 per game). In the 19 Premier League fixtures the Germany international hasn’t been named in the starting XI, the Blues have shipped 26 goals (1.4 per game).

It’s a pretty safe bet that Rudiger will walk back into the side for Saturday’s FA Cup final.

What Kurt Zouma shouted at Hakim Ziyech

Chelsea didn’t fail to create chances against Arsenal. Kai Havertz had a glorious opportunity to open the scoring in the first half which he wasted while the Blues did have the ball in the back of the net in the second period via Christian Pulisic, only for the goal to be ruled out for offside.

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Tuchel’s final roll of the dice as his side searched for an equaliser was to introduce Ziyech with 12 minutes to play. The Moroccon is a wonderfully gifted footballer and certainly possesses the gifts to open up a stubborn and resolute opposition defence.

He also has a penchant for the spectacular, which you sense was in the mind of Zouma as the Blues mounted late pressure.

After a 90th-minute Chelsea corner had been cleared, possession was eventually worked back out to Ziyech on the edge of the Arsenal penalty area. He shifted the ball onto his trusted left foot and, 20 yards out, an effort on goal appeared inevitable.

It was then Zouma, still in the Gunners box having come up for the corner, bellowed into the night sky “don’t shoot, don’t shoot” and Ziyech took his advice.

The former Ajax star instead dropped his shoulder and tried to slip in Reece James. It didn’t work. Moments later, however, Ziyech received the ball in a deeper position and clipped a cross into the penalty area towards Zouma.

The defender rose highest and, via the hand of Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno, saw his header strike the crossbar. The rebound fell kindly for Olivier Giroud whose hooked effort from close range also hit the woodwork.

It was at that point the disappointing reality became clear: it was just not Chelsea’s night.

Source by Football London

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