Skipper Cesar Azpilicueta has explained how his role as captain has changed for games behind closed doors and during the lockdown.
Having led out the team again in our first two matches of the Premier League restart, the Spaniard admits the combination of social distancing and its effect on the captain’s responsibilities in the build-up to kick-off have forced him to change how he gets ready for games.
‘It is true that I like to prepare for the game in a certain way, with my own preparations, but now is different,’ he said. ‘When you are the captain you have extra responsibilities. You have also the Premier League and the referee’s meetings.
‘Sometimes you have to be involved also in the dressing room, trying to lift up the players and everybody to make sure that we are ready to start the game well and to win it. So of course you have extra responsibilities and I try to do them the best I can.’
However, he has been stressing to his team-mates the importance of settling into the new routine as soon as possible, as he sees a chance for the current situation to benefit Chelsea if we can adapt quickly enough.
‘We are used to playing football in a certain way, so obviously now when it is behind closed doors it is different. But we have played the friendly games, we could see a little bit what it looks like to play in an empty stadium and we have to adapt. Now the team that adapts quicker and better to this new situation will have an advantage over the opponents.
‘That’s how we have been working on that as well, to be ready, because even though we are 11 against 11 and it is the same football, you have two extra subs, you have the empty stadiums and sometimes it feels like a cold atmosphere, while we are used to playing in the Premier League with full stadiums with amazing atmospheres.
‘So it is different and we have to adapt and we know that sometimes the fans lift you up when you are tired, now we don’t have this. So it’s about the mentality as well, on ourselves with our team-mates, to push each other and help in that.’
Azpilicueta also underlined the importance of communication to the role of a captain, especially during the lockdown period when the squad were separated at home awaiting news on the future of the 2019/20 season.
‘In my role as captain, we had a couple zoom calls, some WhatsApps. From the start there was a lot of uncertainty because we didn’t know what was happening. Some players wanted to go back to their countries to see their families. So everyone had their own problems and I was trying to solve them and trying to help wherever I could.
‘At that point we were training through the zoom calls together as well to keep fit. So from my point of view it was trying to keep everybody as close as possible, to have the feeling that we were still in the season, that we had to compete, because we didn’t know if we were coming back or when. But that’s the case now that we are back playing and we have the most important games of the season.’