Something rare and remarkable happened in Chelsea’s match against Brighton & Hove Albion on Monday, and it had nothing to do with our head-turning spending spree this summer.
For the first time in almost five years, since December 2015, and for only the eight time in his entire Chelsea career, César Azpilicueta made a Premier League appearance off the bench. To put that into perspective, he’s made 264 Premier League starts since joining in 2012, and had failed to feature in just five (5!) league games in the last five seasons.
Thanks to his (even more rare) injury in last season’s FA Cup final, he’s in fact failed to start in two consecutive Chelsea matches, which is practically unthinkable.
But the new era at Chelsea has already started. Eventually, we will have a Chelsea without Dave in it. As with all our legends, that’s going to be a sad day.
Fortunately, that day is not yet today, as confirmed by another legend who eventually underwent such a transition, and current head coach, Frank Lampard.
“Yes, absolutely Azpi is club captain this season. He’s done a great job of it and since I’ve been in the role, he’s been a huge help to me, how he’s handled himself on and off the pitch, how much he feels for the club, how much he communicates within the squad.
“We can all see the quality of Reece James and the competition I have in that right-back position, but Azpi’s professionalism means he’s going to be as important for us this year as he always is. He is officially club captain.”
There had been some (baseless) suggestions that Thiago Silva might take the captain’s armband this season, but the bigger threat to Azpi’s minutes are all the young players who are the future of the club. Reece James, 20, is set to rule the right flank for the foreseeable future and new arrival Ben Chilwell, 23, will hopefully do the same on the left.
But Azpilicueta’s tenacious, determined, and versatile enough to fill in wherever and whenever he’s needed, and that’s certainly something Lampard’s counting on.
“I can’t ask players who are as competitive as Azpi to be content with missing one game. Every player here should be keen to play every game. I know Azpi is like that. I know him very well from playing with him.
“I don’t expect saints who say, ‘OK, I’m not playing this game, everything’s fine and rosy’. No, players need to want to play but, when you have someone like Azpi with the qualities he has as captain, I know he gives everything and I know that whether he plays or there might be times when he doesn’t, he will have the same positive impact on the group off the pitch. That’s all I can ask for, it’s a pleasure to have him here for that.”
-Frank Lampard; source: Telegraph
Azpilicueta recently turned 31 but he’s under contract for two more years. He’s going nowhere just yet.
If and when his time at Stamford Bridge is up, he will leave as one of our finest players and one our all-time leaders in appearances. Though we’ll probably still just call him DAVE.