Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta accepts the Blues need to face the reality of two points dropped in our draw at Nottingham Forest and our position in the Premier League table, but feels there is time left to turn things around this season if everyone pulls together.
The Spaniard played his 495th game for Chelsea at the City Ground, surpassing Petr Cech’s record as our highest overseas appearance maker, but was unable to mark the occasion with a second Premier League win in a row in our first match of 2023.
We took the lead through Raheem Sterling in a promising first half during which we dominated possession, before Nottingham Forest came out for the second half much improved, equalising through a penalty-area scramble following a corner to leave us having to settle for a 1-1 draw.
Speaking after the match, Azpilicueta discussed his frustration at not turning our first-half performance into a victory and the manner in which we conceded the equaliser, having had the chance to clear our lines before the ball broke to scorer Serge Aurier.
‘We are disappointed, of course, that is not the way we wanted to start the new year,’ said the Blues skipper.
‘I think in the first half we had a bit more control of the game but maybe we were not that dangerous to score the second goal, which could have made it easier for us in the second half. Even though I think we had a couple of transitions in the second half since the beginning, they were putting more pressure on us and we were not able to escape, playing out or even playing long.
‘When a team is losing you expect a reaction and we were not able to find the space or attack the right space to calm down the reaction we expected from them. As well, they were playing at home, so when you are 1-0 up you expect that they will react and we were not able to manage that kind of situation.
‘They created a few chances and then a set-piece lost us two points. It is disappointing to concede a goal after three touches in the box. That’s really clear and these are the areas where we cannot let teams score.’
Although the result at the City Ground does move us up one place in the Premier League table, it still leave us seven points behind the top four, meaning Azpilicueta is under no illusion about the size of the task ahead of us in the remainder of the season.
He also believes this Chelsea team are capable of completing that recovery if we can stop dropping points like we did against Forest, even if that starts with a difficult challenge when we host Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on Thursday evening.
‘Every point matters and of course today we lost two points,’ he added. ‘That’s clear and since the beginning of the season we have lost too many points and now we are really far from where we want to be. Every game we don’t win is a chance that we miss, but this is the reality.
‘When you see the table that’s where we are and we need to have a very good second half of the season if we want to achieve Champions League qualification for next season. This is the reality that we face and we have to stick together.
‘We know that it’s not the most pleasant time but in these difficult moments we need everybody to stick together, to work hard to improve. To be humble, to see ourselves, to analyse ourselves and where we can do better.
‘We have a massive game against Manchester City at the Bridge but we need to start winning points.’