Ladies and Gentleman, we’ve found our culprit. All our woes have been traced back to
Branislav Ivanović César Azpilicueta, and as soon as we axe him, we’ll be back on the winning track.
True or not — probably not — that narrative has taken over and has positioned Azpilicueta as the next club captain to find himself on the fringes of the team. Heavy weighs that armband, apparently!
With the expected return and ascendancy of teenager savior Reece James, he of zero Premier League appearances, after the international break, Azpilicueta could yet fulfill this narrative destiny. But the tabloids cannot wait that long. It’s the post-transfer window international break after all, and the ennui of having to wait for proper football leaves plenty of space needing to be filled.
But the likes of The Sun and the Express are certainly up to that challenge, linking Azpilicueta (born in Pamplona) with a return to the Basque Country, either Athletic Bilbao or Real Sociedad, both of whom are apparently “ready” to pounce for the 30-year-old.
That said, and as readily as those sources can be dismissed, there could be something to this thing — eventually. Azpilicueta turned 30 last week but did not get a long-term extension before doing so (unlike Gary Cahill in 2015, two weeks prior to his 30th) and thus only has three years left on his contract. While that sounds like a long time, it does make next summer (i.e. with two years on his contract) the time to sell if we wanted to maximize our income. If Azpilicueta does indeed get dropped for Reece James, and does not find a new role for himself either at center back or in defensive midfield, perhaps a return to Spain would indeed be on the cards.
That said, we should write off Dave at our own peril. He’s proven himself repeatedly under a multitude of very different managers since joining in 2012, and while right back may not be his best position, his demise may yet prove to have been greatly exaggerated.