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Azpilicueta on the winter break, scoring goals, and Chelsea’s poor home record

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Dave speaks

Leicester City v Chelsea FC - Premier League Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Almost a week into the first ever winter break of the Premier League, César Azpilicueta touches on Chelsea’s form, his own attacking contributions, as well as the significance of the winter break itself in an interview with the Chelsea official website.

Azpilicueta talks about the mental aspect of the game, which Mason Mount recently highlighted as well. The game takes its toll not just physically, but mentally as well. It’s nice to take a break from the relentless pressure, to recharge, and catch up with family.

“It’s nice to have a few days to switch off. At the top level you need a high level of fitness, but also on the mental side you need to be focused and concentrated. With this break we have the chance to switch off for a few days, and get some fresh air. Then we will come back, do some work, and kick on for the last three or four months of competition with the power of the break behind us.

“They did well to fit it in the middle of the season, which is not easy with the busy schedule. I will have some time with my family, and live without any rush or any travelling. It’s nice to spend time with them. They support me through the year, and at the weekends we are off travelling. For us to spend a nice time together is important.”

The break also comes at a pretty good time for sporting reasons. Momentum can be a pretty huge thing over the course of a season, dictating which direction the team’s going and in what position we end up on the last day of the season. A club on a good run of form would probably like not have any breaks, while a struggling club would prefer to catch their breath before setting off again.

Chelsea belong to a different category altogether. There is unpredictability and inconsistency of form and hence, there is no real momentum to gain or lose. But given our tough run of fixtures ahead, it probably comes at a very important time that may make or break Chelsea’s quest for a top 4 finish.

“You never know, sometimes when you are in good form you might not want to stop because you are in good rhythm and you have wins in a row. At the moment we are inconsistent, so hopefully we can get more consistent after the break and be ready for the next stage of the season.

“It’s difficult to determine if this is a good time or not. It is what it is and we have to take it in the right way.”

Mourinho’s Chelsea once went 86 home games without a loss, making Stamford Bridge a real fortress for visiting teams. Nowadays? Pretty much every rival team comes without much fear and a good amount of hope to bag a point or three. We almost look forward to Chelsea’s away fixtures over the home ones.

It’s something that’s not lost on Azpilicueta, who acknowledges that it’s a problem that needs to be solved soon.

“We haven’t made Stamford Bridge as solid as we would like this year. This is the best time to recover this solidity, with three big games in a row at home where we can show we are ready and able to make Stamford Bridge a tough place to come.

“With the fans we have had some disappointments at home altogether. When these three opportunities come we have to take them one by one, and hopefully we can build up on this. It’s key for the success of the season.”

Used primarily as a defensive left back by Mourinho, Conte’s arrival saw Azpilicueta switch to a right-sided central defender in a back-three, taking up a specific position on the pitch when Chelsea had possession. A whipped cross from the right central midfield or creating overloads along with the wingback was a common routine under Conte.

Sarri returned Azpilicueta to his supposedly natural position at right back, putting more emphasis on overlapping and crossing from the right flank like a typical fullback, which was never seen as Apilicueta’s best quality.

Lampard these days is using Azpi more like Jose, as a right-footed left back, but that hasn’t stopped Azpilicueta from popping up with important goals this season: he’s already scored a career-high 4 goals in all competitions (2 in the Premier League), with 2 more harshly ruled by VAR, including a winner against Ajax. As he reveals, it’s because he’s been more involved in attacking set plays than earlier in his career.

“I have improved at my movement attacking set-plays. For most of my career I was not going up for attacking set-plays, but a few years ago I started, and then you improve. At training I work on my movements, getting in to the right spaces.

“I have a determination as well. To be hungry is very important, because I’m not the tallest. I’m pleased to score goals, even if it’s not my main job.”

- Cesar Azpilicueta; source: Chelsea FC

Refresh and recharge, before the season takes off once again!