It’s a symbolic gesture more than anything, but also a reward for length of service to and record of success with the club. And it’s also fitting simply in terms of age and experience that in classic Italian style, Gary Cahill, the oldest non-goalkeeper and first-team regular has been officially named Chelsea captain for this season.
"I think that it’s right to continue with Cahill, if he plays, it’s right he’s the captain.”
"Why? Because he stayed in Chelsea for many years and played a lot of games [and] he has the right characteristic to be a good captain."
Cahill had the honor for much of last season as well, at least on the pitch, with John Terry, who was the actual club captain, watching mostly from the bench. One does not require the armband to be a leader of course — “it's about your leadership every day, your discipline and the way you try to help the team,” as David Luiz said recently — nor does the armband guarantee playing time, especially with other leaders ready to step up as well.
“I think also we can have other captains in our team, could be Azpilicueta, Luiz, and also, in the future, it could be Thibaut Courtois, Cesc Fabregas.”
"I think every single player must improve in this (being big personalities in the dressing room) and understand [they have] to take more responsibility because we lost big players and we need now to find these new players to create this fundamental for Chelsea. It is very important for our future success to create this base.”
-Antonio Conte; source: Evening Standard
The big personalities whom Conte’s referring to include JT and Branislav Ivanović (captain and vice-captain at this time last season), as well as the likes of Diego Costa and Asmir Begović and even someone like young Nathaniel Chalobah who captained many a Chelsea youth side and was famously first on the scene after Sergio Agüero tried to break David Luiz’s knee.
So as we try to build a new Old Guard, the new Chelsea “base”, to use Conte’s word, there’s plenty of space for players to step up and fill the void.