In his opening remarks as Chelsea head coach, Frank Lampard talked about the need for the older, more experienced players at the club to not only lead by example, but take an active role and interest in helping the club develop and integrate young players. It’s part of Lampard’s grand plan to not only improve Chelsea’s dire record in brining through talent to the first-team from a world-class youth setup, but to also improve the connection between the team, the local community, and the fans.
It’s a message that’s been received loud and clear by a certain César Azpilicueta, who will presumably continue as Chelsea club captain, now in an official capacity after Gary Cahill’s departure.
“We have a lot of good youngsters here at Chelsea, many of them have come away with us on this trip and it’s a good chance for them to come in and impress. I’m a senior member of the team and it’s down to people like myself to lead by example, to set the standards for the young players to follow and you have to show this on the pitch with the way you play, but also with how you conduct yourself off it too.”
It would be easy for the older players to choose a more self-serving route. After all, they’re training their own replacements, in a sense. But no one’s ever gotten better by not challenging themselves, and fostering a friendly yet competitive environment can only benefit everyone’s ultimate aims. Plus, everyone was a young player once, and most likely, they were all taken under a veteran player’s wings at one point or another to help key their development.
“We have to help these guys when they step up to first-team level because you have to remember, we were all young players starting out once. It’s not easy for them but that’s why we integrate them into the squad and make the young players feel as comfortable as possible.”
“Everyone knows how good the Academy is here at Chelsea and now it’s a chance for the young players to stake a claim to play here.”
The renewed emphasis on youth is just one of the many big changes this summer at the club. Azpilicueta himself is a rare exception as he enters his eighth senior season with the club, the most of any active player.
But the man who’s rather unbelievably turning 30 later this summer remains as hungry and competitive as ever. The new season will bring many new and unique challenges, but Dave is ready to tackle them head on, just as he’s done for each and every one of his 337 appearances for the club so far.
“I’m really looking forward to the new season. We’ve all had a good break, which was needed after a long season with the Europa League running until the end of May. It was great to win a trophy to finish with and now we are all ready and raring to get back at it.”
“It’s always a lot of hard work during pre-season but it’s the work you have to put in, to create a good base for our physical condition. We want to play with high intensity and we want to be dominant in games, the manager has explained how he wants us to play and we are all enjoying the camp so far.”
-César Azpilicueta; source: Chelsea FC
The hard work is only beginning. The first preseason game is in three days. And whether Lampard plays Azpilicueta at left back, right back, or center back, we can rest assured that the Captain will always give 110 per cent.