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Talking Tactics

Key players: Azpilicueta gives Lampard flexibility

Adrian Clarke 31 Mar 2020
Cesar Azpilicueta, Chelsea

Adrian Clarke says Chelsea's captain is more important to them now than in any of his previous seven seasons at Stamford Bridge

Adrian Clarke looks at players who have been crucial to their team's tactical set-ups this season. 

Cesar Azpilicueta (CHE)

Defensive intelligence, quality crossing and an assured presence at the back. These are all things that Azpilicueta offers to Chelsea. 

But above all he provides the Blues with tactical flexibility.

The 30-year-old is predominantly a right-back, but his adaptability allows head coach Frank Lampard to regularly shuffle his pack.

The Spaniard has started 27 Premier League matches in 2019/20, two more than any other Chelsea player.

Defensive flexibility 

The emergence of Reece James as an attacking right-back has given Lampard a different option in recent months.

This has meant the Chelsea captain, now in his eighth season at Stamford Bridge, has been asked to switch defensive positions more often.

For example, during the last six matches Azpilicueta has played at right-back, left-back and as the right-sided central defender in a back three.

Azpilicueta: How I attack from the back

In central defence, the form of Antonio Rudiger, Kurt ZoumaAndreas Christensen and Fikayo Tomori has fluctuated.

The experience of Azpilicueta can help to balance out this perceived area of fragility. 

When Lampard wishes to play the more attack-minded James on the right, he will put Azpilicueta on the opposite side.

Likewise, if he prefers to start either Marcos Alonso or Emerson at left-back, his captain simply reverts to the other flank.

The inclusion of Alonso and James in the same XI means Lampard will change formation to a 3-4-2-1 with Azpilicueta moving inside to be deployed as a central defender.

Azpilicueta's defensive stats
2019/20 Total Chelsea rank
Duels won 156 1st
Tackles won 39 1st
Blocks 16 1st
Clearances 62 2nd
Interceptions 50 2nd

Azpilicueta may be fast approaching veteran status but he continues to deliver at the highest level.

This season, he has won more duels, more tackles and made more blocks than any team-mate.

His level-headed defending, coupled with his versatility, is more important to Chelsea now than at any other stage in his spell at the club.

See: Adrian Clarke's key tactical players

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