Interview

Cesar Azpilicueta on pre-season progress and the unifying impact of Frank Lampard’s appointment

Cesar Azpilicueta has spoken about the first week of training under Frank Lampard and claimed that our new head coach will insist on a relentless drive for self-improvement from his players, just like he instilled in his own game throughout an illustrious 13-year playing career at Stamford Bridge.

Our Spanish defender played the first 45 minutes in Dublin on Wednesday evening as the Lampard era started with a pre-season draw against Bohemians. Michy Batshuayi opened the scoring early on for the Blues, who were denied victory by a late strike from teenager Eric Molloy.

After the game, Azpilicueta reflected on the first seven days of pre-season in the Irish capital, where double sessions have pushed the players hard.

‘It’s good to have the manager with us,’ he said. ‘I watched some Derby games last season and obviously shared a dressing room with him so I know the way he was as a player and I could see in this week of training the way he wants us to play. He wants us to feel the shirt and train hard every day, which is something special that we’re all looking forward to.

‘Frank was here for a very long and successful period so he knows what it means to try to be better every day. Sometimes we lost games but we always wanted to win more and more. We have to be grateful and feel the passion to be Chelsea players. It’s a big club and we have to take the responsibility.’

Azpilicueta and Lampard shared a dressing room for two seasons so the 29-year old is quite familiar with his new boss’s character and commitment. He praised the unifying impact the appointment has had throughout the club and insisted that any doubts about Lampard’s experience as a coach were misplaced.

‘He’s the boss now and we will follow him obviously,’ continued Azpi. ‘We’re delighted to have him as our manager and we will work hard for him because we have an exciting season ahead of us. Frank’s experience as a manager is one year in Derby but the football experience he has, playing at the highest level and working under a lot of very good managers, means we have nothing to be worried about.

‘He has a lot of desire and passion to be the manager of Chelsea, the club he loves and where everyone loves him. All the players, staff and fans are excited and now the only way we can get it started is by being together as a club and hopefully we can do it together.’

Eden Hazard’s departure to Real Madrid has been a familiar talking point throughout the summer but Azpilicueta provided a reminder from his own experience that the departure of big-name players was not as disastrous as some like to make out.

‘Since I came here, in every season we’ve had players leave – Lampard, John Terry, Didier Drogba, Ashley Cole, Petr Cech,’ he explained. ‘At those moments, people couldn’t imagine a Chelsea side winning trophies without those quality players but we tried to keep the level high and every year we’ve had the chance to bring trophies to the Bridge.

‘Eden is gone, we can only wish him the best but it was his choice and now we have to move on. We’re not going to win anything just thinking about the past. We have a great chance already in five weeks to win a European trophy again so we want to work hard and look forward to that.’

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