Now that we have the duo of Gary Neville and Jamie Caragher analysing games on Monday, it's difficult to go back to the usual dross we get with football punditry. Despite their rather dubious club allegiances, the pairing are very, very good at what they do, and they're especially good at analysing the defensive phase of the game. So when they talk about Chelsea's defenders, it's probably time to take notice.
Hint: they have nice things to say, especially about Cesar Azpilicueta.
For technical defending, not making a mistake, not being in the wrong position, not getting caught out… I don’t see [Azpilicueta] making a mistake. And I have to say the Chelsea defenders aren’t far behind him; Gary Cahill, John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic. But Azpilicueta, when I watch him, he’s as near to perfect as possible when it comes to defending; he’s immaculate.
-Gary Neville. Source: Sky Sports.
I totally agree. I think those Chelsea players, all of them, they defend properly. We see that in terms of the number of goals they’ve conceded, the clean sheets they keep. Azpilicueta is an out-and-out defender. You very rarely see anybody get the better of him. He’d be my number one [in the league].
Being called 'as near to perfect as possible' by Gary Neville, a fullback who only played at the top level for as long as he did because of his footballing brain, is high praise indeed. Azpilicueta isn't to everyone's tastes, because he's more defensively minded than, say, Filipe Luis (or, more strangely, Branislav Ivanovic), but he is an absolute master at positioning and knowing when he can commit himself and when he can't*.
*Apart from two weeks ago at Selhurst Park, which whoopsies.
Contrary to Jose Mourinho's assertion last year, 11 Azpilicuetas probably wouldn't win you the Champions League. But it sure would get you a lot of clean sheets.