Simon Phillips has said that the “downfall” of Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta in recent months has been evident and admitted that, despite the Spaniard’s influential presence, it is something of a surprise that he is still at the club.
What’s the word?
Speaking to GIVEMESPORT, the journalist said of Azpilicueta: “His downfall has become so clear. This is why I was very surprised that Chelsea kept him in the squad, albeit his influence can be a positive in the squad.”
To say that the 41-cap Spain international is enduring a downfall may be a little overboard at this moment in time.
During Chelsea’s difficult start to the season, the 33-year-old has looked his age at times, often having to make do with substitute appearances. However, that comes with the caveat that the entire squad appeared to be out of sorts, with nothing really clicking in Thomas Tuchel’s final days at the helm in SW6.
The 1-0 defeat against Dinamo Zagreb saw Azpilicueta falter to the point that he was replaced at half-time, but since the appointment of Graham Potter and the Blues’ subsequent upsurge in form, Azpilicueta has delivered when he has been called upon.
He earned an impressive 7.6 Sofascore rating against Wolves last weekend, winning five duels and making two tackles and interceptions. He then came off the bench to good effect against AC Milan on Tuesday, winning three duels and one tackle.
The £180k-per-week stalwart might not be one of the first names on the team sheet anymore, and it looks as though he will play a bit-part role of various cameos for Chelsea this season, backed by the experience of nearly 500 games for the club stretching back a decade.
His importance is undeniable, though, with his authority and versatility being two crucial traits within Potter’s squad. Also, the likes of younger defensive team-mates Trevoh Chalobah and Wesley Fofana should only prosper even further in the Spaniard’s guiding presence.
Whilst there are certainly signs that Azpilicueta’s effect at this level is gradually dwindling, such as his sporadic starts, he is still an important figure and makes for an excellent utility option for the tactically flexible Potter, who has so far entrusted him as a central defender and right-back.