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Iron-man Azpilicueta reflects on Chelsea’s character and loving Hazard 3000

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Ever-present

Leicester City v Chelsea FC - Premier League Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

Chelsea’s rollercoaster of a Premier League season has ended, consigning all of its good times, bad times, and indifferent times to the history books. We’ve witnessed it all from the stands, through our televisions, or however else you may inject this life-blood into your veins.

(Vice-)captain César Azpilicueta summed it up well after last night’s game.

“Obviously in this season we have had up and downs, we have arrived in the final of the Carabao Cup and lost on penalties, we have had bad games with heavy losses and we have had very good games when we have played well and had good results. We are in the final of the Europa League, we finished third when we were a bit in trouble a few weeks ago so that shows that the league is not easy and we showed character, and at the end we have finished third and play the Champions League next season.”

And Azpilicueta certainly knows. He witnessed more of it first-hand than anyone else on the team, missing a grand total of 17 minutes of Premier League football this season. Only four non-goalkeepers did better than that in all the lands. Conor Coady from Wolves, Ben Mee of Burnley, and Luka Milivojevic of Palace all played every minute. Nathan Aké missed just eight (8) minutes. Then the next best after Azpi was Player of the Year Virgil van Dijk, who rested for just 35.

Without checking too rigorously, it would appear in fact that Azpilicueta has played more minutes than just about any other Premier League non-goalkeeper in the last four seasons. This season he missed 17 minutes; last season he missed 90 minutes by skipping a game; the year before he played every minute; and in 2015-16 he missed two games and change (218 minutes total). If you’re counting, and we are, that’s 325 minutes missed out of 13,680. That’s thirteen-thousand minutes, three-hundred missed — 152 games, less than 4 missed.

That’s impressive any way you slice it, especially as most of it has been at an incredibly high level and at three different positions. On Sunday, Azpi was starting at center back for the first time since Conte’s departure, and proved that the lessons he learned over those two years have not been forgotten.

Unfortunately, a few less good things remain unforgotten as well, such as poor finishing and inconsistent play in all phases of the game. Still, the 0-0 draw was enough to finish third, thanks in part to Spurs choking again. All in all, it makes for a happy enough end to the season.

“We started with fourth position in our pocket already but we wanted more. We knew we were facing a good team in very good form. Under their new manager Leicester have improved a lot, they have young players and it was their last game at home. We were coming from 120 minutes in the semi-final as well so really it was important to finish well and we were unlucky not to win. We were not very effective up front and we could not take the lead, but we were happy to finish third and now we have the big game in Baku.”

Winning in Baku, against Arsenal, would make it an even happier ending. The only way it could get happier from there was if Eden Hazard signed his contract extension. Alas, that probably won’t happen, even if we love him far more than Real Madrid ever will.

“Of course they want him to stay. Eden has been an important part in the seven years he has been here, he is only focusing on getting good results and lifting the trophy in Baku, and after this his position with the club we will see. But everyone here, we love him and we would like him to stay with us.”

-César Azpilicueta; source: Chelsea FC

Some might say we love him 3000.