Sunday, October 2, 2022

With Chilwell Set To Miss The Weekend Fixture, Chelsea Must Start This Spanish Defender

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Nikhil Vinodh
Nikhil has been an avid Chelsea fan for as long as the concept of time has existed and rumours say that he even bleeds blue. Having lived in the UK for 3 years, Nikhil is said to have an excellent understanding of the atmosphere surrounding the English game. His role model is the greatest manager of all time - Jose Mourinho.

Premier League giants Chelsea are one of the most in-form teams in the division at this moment in time, with Frank Lampard’s men gradually beginning to fire on all cylinders. The London club hold the commendable record of having scored the most goals in the league with 20, while their defensive record has been impressive over recent weeks as well. The likes of Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech have started to produce the goods at the required level, with a solid degree of defensive stability being attained too. The combination of Thiago Silva and Kurt Zouma is now bearing fruit for the high-flying Blues. Another summer signing who has made a blistering start to life as a Chelsea player in Ben Chilwell.

The former Leicester City man’s arrival wasn’t greeted with as much excitement as some of the attacking players, but he has been quick to shut his critics down with some starring displays. The Englishman has been a key part of a lot of the attacking play that the Blues have produced across all competitions, with the 23-year-old’s record in the league reading two goals and two assists from five outings. As important as he has been going forward, it must be conceded that his defensive work has come as a breath of fresh air as well. Now however, with an apparent injury to Chilwell, Chelsea must start Azpilicueta at left-back against Newcastle.

Why Has Chilwell’s Defensive Impact Been So Vital?

Chelsea’s struggles in the left-back role last season were no secret, as neither of their alternate options were able to produce the goods on a consistent basis. Lampard struggled to find the defensive security that was required down this end, with him often opting to move into a back-five just to ensure that they’re not beaten as easily as usual. A majority of the goals that Chelsea conceded were from crosses into the area, and their apparent inability to block crosses coming into the box was a frustrating one to say the least.

Chelsea Must Start Azpilicueta At Left-Back Against Newcastle - Chilwell in action
LONDON, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 03: Ben Chilwell of Chelsea runs with the ball during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge on October 03, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Emerson Palmieri and Marcos Alonso were the two options that Lampard had to choose from, with neither showing any signs of being capable of taking over as first choice. Emerson, although defensively decent, produced very little in the attacking phase, and that was always going to be a problem in the Premier League. The alternate option, Marcos Alonso, had the direct opposite skill-set. The Spanish speedster was quite good at getting forward and offering a goal threat, but when it came to defending and dealing with players running at him, he regularly cut a sorry figure. Taking this into account, Chilwell’s addition to the side was as important as any they’ve made in recent history.

Why Chelsea Must Start Azpilicueta At Left-Back Against Newcastle:

The Spanish veteran has been one of the most loyal servants of this football club in recent years, and his versatility is one of the main reasons for that. Not only has he been a regular at right-back, but he has also filled in at left-back and even at centre-half when required. Even last season, when Lampard came to realise that neither Alonso nor Emerson were capable of producing the goods down the flank, he opted to just move Azpilicueta over to the left-side. This is exactly what the gaffer should be doing for the Blues’ weekend visit to St.James’ Park.

As good as some of the attacking play that Chelsea have produced has been, it must be conceded that their defensive security has had an important part to play in the form that they’ve been enjoying. Edouard Mendy has conceded just one goal in the league so far this season, and that trend is sure to change if either Emerson or Alonso are given the nod on the weekend. With Reece James now seemingly set as the first-choice right-back, Azpilicueta’s first-team opportunities have been limited. This fixture would present Lampard the perfect opportunity to bring him back into the side, at the same time ensuring that the form they’ve been in over recent matches isn’t directly under threat.

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