'Outstanding': BBC pundit says £150k-a-week star will keep Chelsea pushing for the PL title

Garth Crooks insisted Cesar Azpilicueta’s leadership will be vital if Chelsea are to mount a serious challenge for the Premier League trophy.

Crooks included Azpilicueta in his BBC Team of the Week, thanks to the Spaniards authoritative display against Arsenal yesterday.

It was a performance typical of his nine-year tenure as a Blue.

Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

Assured, commanding, resolute and full of passion.

He made a terrific tackle in the second half to deny Emile Smith Rowe a goalscoring opportunity, that was all about experience and timing.

Whilst Romelu Lukaku and Reece James grabbed the headlines, Azpilicueta went about his business in unsurprisingly humble fashion.

The £150,000-a-week (Spotrac) captain might not be the best paid or flashiest player, but he is one of the most consistent figures ever to grace the English top flight.

Captain Cesar

If Chelsea are to contest Manchester City for their domestic crown, then the skipper’s involvement will be paramount.

Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

A feeling that Crooks reiterated, highlighting Azpilicueta’s exhibition away at Arsenal as a benchmark for the campaign.

“Chelsea are not Champions League winners by accident,” said the former striker.

“Their performance against Arsenal was a gentle reminder to all concerned they have no intention of surrendering that trophy and have one eye firmly fixed on the Premier League as well.

“In order to do that you need a leader and captain who is capable of keeping the players focused on the prize and Azpilicueta is that man.

Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

“The Spaniard was outstanding against the Gunners – as he was for the best part of last season.

“The greater the responsibility he has, the better he seems to play.”

At 31-years, Azpilicueta still has plenty of life left in his seasoned legs.

Especially since Thomas Tuchel decided to deploy him as part of a back-three, a shift Antonio Conte used to great effect.

Permitted Tuchel can copy the success of his Italian predecessor, then the top division crown will be heading back to Stamford Bridge.

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Nathaniel is a football journalist who graduated from the University of Derby. He has worked at Burton Albion as part of their media team for two years. Nathaniel produces regular articles for the club’s official website and match-day programme. He covered the 2018 U20 Women’s World Cup in Brittany and has reported from grounds ranging from non-league up to the Premier League.