Chelsea’s defence was a major weak point of their season last year. The Blues shipped 56 goals in all competitions, conceding at a rate of just under one goal a game. For a team with experienced trophy winners like Antonio Rudiger, David Luiz, and Cesar Azpilicueta as part of the starting XI, that is a staggering stat.
Azpilicueta endured a shocking campaign defensively, as the normally reliable Spaniard was found out by many teams last season. This can be seen in how many times Azpilicueta dribbled past last season. In the 2017/2018 season, Azpilicueta was dribbled past just 0.75 times, as opposed to 0.9 times in the 2018/2019 season.
It seemed strange that such a reliable defender performed so poorly, as the 29-year-old made fewer interceptions, committed more fouls, cleared the ball less, was dribbled past more and made fewer blocks than the previous season (2017/2018).
Ahead of another rebuilding job at Chelsea next season, the Spanish international must improvement on all fronts. Chelsea are currently in the midst of a two-window transfer ban, after breaking rules regarding signing underaged players. With no incomings to replace Azpilicueta, Chelsea will once again be relying on the aged Spaniard to reach the levels of his two title-winning campaigns.
However, performances on the pitch were only part of the problem as Azpilicueta was lambasted for his leadership qualities last season. During Chelsea’s penalty shoot-out defeat to Manchester City in the Carabao Cup, Chelsea fans criticised Azpilicueta for his lack of intervention when goalkeeper Kepa Arrizbalaga refused to be substituted. However, that wasn’t the end of Azpilicueta’s questionable performance as captain. When the toss for the penalty shoot-out was taking place, Azpilicueta was seen consulting Luiz on which end to choose should they win the toss, something that enraged Chelsea fans.
Azpilicueta was only made captain after the club captain Gary Cahill was ostracised by former boss Mauricio Sarri. However, with Cahill on the brink of leaving Chelsea after the expiration of his contract at the end of June, Azpilicueta could become the club captain as he is currently the club’s vice-captain. It’s strange such an experienced defender lacks basic leadership qualities, and he needs to improve next season, as he is experience is crucial for Chelsea’s defence.
Failure to improve in performances and Chelsea’s defence could once again struggle in the upcoming campaign. Azpilicueta was shocking last season, however, he must get his act together ahead of another crucial season for the club.