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Azpilicueta key to unlocking Morata and to Chelsea finding tactical solutions in midfield

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Azpilicueta-to-Morata now just as prolific as Fàbregas-to-Costa was in 2014-15

Antonio Conte joked after Chelsea’s 2-0 win over Brighton that Álvaro Morata will have to take César Azpilicueta out to dinner more than just once to repay all the great service so far this season. On Tuesday, Morata opened the scoring with his tenth Premier League goal of the season, six of which have been assisted by his good friend and international teammate (and four of which are carbon copies of each other).

"There is this great link between him and Alvaro. This wasn't the first time [they combined for a goal]. I hope it continues in this way because we need his assists and Morata to score. Morata has to pay not one dinner but more dinners to Azpi. And, if they invite me, I want to go."

-Antonio Conte; source: ESPN

Conte was obviously in a much happier mood than after Saturday’s disappointing 0-0 draw at Goodison, though there’s a chance he wants to join his star defender and striker to talk a bit more tactics and how we can unlock this combination even further — even if they are already one of the most prolific single-season combinations in recent Premier League history, equalling Lampard-to-Drogba from 2009-10 and Fàbregas-to-Costa from a few years ago.

Azpilicueta himself touched on this topic in his post-match interview with Chelsea TV, which you can see embedded at the top. While most of the questions lobbed his way were the usual softballs, it was enlightening to hear Azpi reveal just a little bit of the tactical shifts and the constant search for “solutions” (one of Conte’s favorite words) that goes on during a game.

“Sometimes when we play with 2 midfielders, I have more space to join like a third midfielder. Sometimes when we play with 3 midfielders, maybe my space is wider. You know, you kind of have to find the solutions with the midfielders.

“Sometimes, we play against two strikers, and that gives us fewer solutions because I am a defender and I have to [stay back and] defend the strikers. But when there’s only one striker, we try to find the solution to create the [midfield] superiority.”

-César Azpilicueta; source: Chelsea TV

As Dave also says, he needs a few yards of space to set up and deliver these crosses, so part of the gameplan is to try to create those opportunities for him to do so. In the first half, this was proving difficult due to Brighton’s pressure — if they watched any tape from previous game, they will have no doubt identified this important feature of Chelsea’s tactics — but with Chelsea pushing higher up in the second half, Azpi could find the space to launch a few in Morata’s direction.

And here is today’s effort: