CESAR AZPILICUETA is not declining – hes just never been that good attacking.
I often see Chelsea supporters claiming that we are witnessing a slump in club captain Azplicueta.
While he has sometimes looked a shadow of the man they have always called the consistent one – these have merely been dips in form, rather than him declining.
Azpilicueta only just turned 30 this summer, so this is not a player who should be showing any signs of ageing on the pitch just yet. In fact, many players played their golden years in their early thirties John Terry as an example.
I think the Chelsea captain also proved in the Champions League on Wednesday evening that he is not in decline after leading his side to a 1-0 win over Ajax.
He was one of the best defenders on the pitch, and made a number of vital blocks and recovery tackles showing once again just how good he can be as a defender.
The problem lies when he goes past the halfway line. He is not, and never has been comfortable as an attacking player.
In fact, I would say that he is much better playing as a centre-back, especially if that is part of a back three.
He has managed to disguise just how uncomfortable he is going forward over the years because of the effort he puts in, and how well he can defend.
Also, the game has changed so much even during his time at Chelsea. Full backs are basically wingers that can defend now, in the type of system that the likes of Frank Lampard and Pep Guardiola play.
This is where the usual reliable Azpilicueta falls down. In the attacking third he will do the basics, but he will never do those extra bits that Chelsea need from their full backs like beat a man, get to the byline, pick out a defence cutting through ball he just doesnt have that in his game.
Dont get me wrong, I have SO much respect for Azpilicueta and still rate him as an excellent defender despite him being out of form in recent times.
I just think he is like a rabbit in the headlights when he gets forward and because of that, we waste so many attacking opportunities when he opts to pass back instead of beat his man for example.
The solution really is we must take off our blue tinted glasses. Reece James is a better all round right back than Azpilicueta in the system that Lampard plays with high intensity and high pressing.
Azpilicueta is a decent back up choice, but James, 19, should start as a regular. We cant just keep picking the Spaniard because hes a Chelsea man, which he is. We have to be cut throat and realise he just doesnt offer enough going forward.
I see him as a great defender to back up any role in the back four, and a great club man with experience to have around and fill in when needed – but he isnt a starter for me, and thats not because hes declining, because he absolutely is not.