Certainly not for the first time in his Chelsea career, Cesar Azpilicueta has been a fixture in the side at the start of a season. The only time he has not begun a game was a week ago when 19-year-old Academy product Reece James played at right-back in the Carabao Cup against Grimsby.
The youngster performed well, adding to some strong defending with a goal scored and two assists. He could be considered as a direct challenger to the captain’s place in the side, in the future if not immediately, but speaking in Lille ahead of this week’s Champions League match, Azpilicueta does not see it that way.‘Reece is a player I have followed and he had an amazing spell at Wigan [on loan],’ the Spaniard began. ‘He showed his quality, he is a very strong boy with a good attitude. I will try to help him with whatever he needs.‘I am here to help the team and even if he is a right-back and I can play right-back, we are players who can play in different positions. I am here to help as I am with all the young lads and hopefully he can be an important player for this big team.’Azpilicueta was not surprised to see the likes of Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori prove their worth in the Chelsea team in earlier games.‘I’ve known them for a long time so I saw their progression in the Academy and when they went on loan. So I knew their quality and I was very confident they had the level to perform in team. What they have been doing is very good for them and the club and I have been pleased not only for their performances but also their attitude. It is very important for them to set an example to the players of 10 or 12 years old who one day want to be in the team. So it is something very important and they are doing it.’
It is not only the presence of youth that has been a change to the team’s football this season and Azpilicueta outlined the alteration in approach under Frank Lampard.‘Every manager asks you different tasks and on the pitch now we are playing with more intensity and pressing higher up the pitch, we want to control the game. We attack with the full-backs and we are trying to find the solution in the box with more crossing and shooting maybe than last season. Last season we were trying more to get through the lines with short passes.‘I am enjoying it and hopefully we can take the momentum from the last two home wins into this game in Lille and then at Southampton before the international break, so we can get into the next month with better results.’