Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta has suffered a “very clear” decline throughout the early stages of the current campaign.
What’s the word?
That is according to journalist Simon Phillips, who believes that the 33-year-old’s age is finally catching up to him, just weeks after the long-serving stalwart penned a new deal at the club.
As such, the journalist reckons there is “no way” that the Spaniard can continue to start under Graham Potter, following a series of underwhelming performances.
Speaking to GIVEMESPORT, Phillips said: “Azpilicueta, his decline is very clear to see now for all Chelsea fans, I think, and there’s no way he can continue to start games, and I don’t think he will.”
Azpilicueta on the wane?
Even bearing in mind Azpilicueta’s club legend status, you cannot ignore the fact that the Spaniard has endured a somewhat tough start to the season, although this will have been augmented by Chelsea’s collective fall of late.
Games against Tottenham Hotspur, Leicester City and Dinamo Zagreb have certainly not painted the defender in the best light, achieving a 6.8 or lower Sofascore rating in each. That doesn’t necessarily spell the end for the 33-year-old at Stamford Bridge, though, and he will most certainly have a part to play for the Blues this season.
His first start under new boss Graham Potter against Red Bull Salzburg was solid and saw him complete the most passes of anyone on the night and finish the game as the most accurate passer of the ball, completing 87 of his 94 passes for an outstanding 93% accuracy (Fotmob). These passes were not just conservative either, with 14 being played into the final third of the pitch.
The 33-year-old may need to keep up such performance levels if he is to feature regularly under Potter, although it seems likely that the new manager would pick £71m summer signing Wesley Fofana on a more regular basis, especially if he is to continue with the rotational three-at-the-back setup that we saw so often at Brighton.
Either way, there should be a part to play for the £150k-per-week Azpilicueta, despite concerns of a decline as he approaches his mid-thirties – his WhoScored seasonal rating has gradually decreased year-on-year since 2019/20.