Monday, May 29, 2017

A case for the defence at Chelsea

David Nugent in Editorial, English Premier League 17 Dec 2016

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Spanish defender Cesar Azpilicueta has been one of Chelsea's best performers of late

Spanish defender Cesar Azpilicueta has been one of Chelsea’s best performers of late

Chelsea moved nine points clear at the top of the Premier League on Saturday afternoon with a 1-0 victory at Crystal Palace’s Selhurst Park.

Once again Spanish international striker Diego Costa was the goalscoring hero with his 13th top-flight goal of the season.

However, it was once again the Blues solid defensive display that helped Antonio Conte’s team to clinch the victory.

Incredible defensive displays

Chelsea are on an extraordinary run of 11 consecutive Premier League wins. In those games the Blues have kept nine clean sheets. There has been a lot of talk of Conte’s switch of system, but the Italian’s switch has suddenly made his team watertight at the back.

The three centre-backs Gary Cahill, David Luiz and Cesar Azpilicueta have been vital to the teams fantastic recent run of form. Both Cahill and Luiz have had their ability and concentration questioned in the past. However, both have been outstanding in recent games.

Cahill has never really been regarded as a top centre-back by Chelsea or England fans. He was often regarded as the weak link in the Blues backline. Some even stated that Cahill only performed well because John Terry guided him through games at times.

However, in Conte’s current system Cahill has been superb. The experienced England star now sticks to what he does best, which suits the Blues down to the ground.

David Luiz was regarded as a liability in his first spell at the club. Eyebrows were raised when the Blues decided to bring him back to the club for £30million from PSG close to the transfer deadline. However, Luiz has been surprisingly solid in the Blues defence.

He still likes to maraud forward occasionally, but does not take as many risks as he did in his first spell. The Brazilian also seems to have cut out the silly mistakes which he was prone to in his previous spell at Stamford Bridge.

For me though, the man that has been producing the most impressive performances is Spanish international Cesar Azpilicueta. The 27-year-old has just been rewarded for his recent good form by a new deal. Azpilicueta or ‘Dave’ as he is known to his friends cost the Blues just £7million in 2012 from Marseille.

Azpilicueta’s good defensive work often goes unnoticed. However, considering the Spaniard is playing out-of-position at centre-back he has been fantastic of late.

Azpilicueta won the clubs Player of the Year award in season 2013/14, so he is not unsung at the club. He definitely deserves more credit than he gets, though.

Defensive midfielders a good shield

Chelsea’s defensive ability is boosted by the defensive midfield duo of N’Golo Kante and Nemanja Matic. The pair do a stellar job in front of those three centre-backs, shielding their defensive teammates expertly. The pair have also been influential in keeping clean sheets.

On the rare occasions that the back three are beaten, the pair are usually there to bail their defence out. Matic looks to have rediscovered his best form under Conte, while Kante has just continued from where he left off last season at champions Leicester.

Playing like champions

Chelsea now have recorded 43 points in the Premier League this season. No team has ever failed to win the Premier League title with such a high tally of points. The Blues form is that of champions at the moment.

Even when they are not playing that well, the Blues are still picking up victories in the Premier League. Chelsea are the favourites to win the Premier League title this season at odds of 4/6.

If the Blues are going to win the Premier League title this season, then the likes of Eden Hazard and Diego Costa will likely get much of the credit.

However, if they do indeed clinch the title then their defence deserve just as much credit as their forward players, as they have been outstanding this season and could be the key to a title triumph this season.

Will Chelsea’s defence win them the Premier League title?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Nugent


David is a freelance football writer with nearly a decade of experience writing about the beautiful game. The 33-year-old has written for over a dozen websites and also an international soccer magazine offline.
Arguably his best work has come as an editorial writer for Soccernews, sharing his good, bad and ugly opinions on the world’s favourite sport. During David’s writing career he has written editorials, betting previews, match previews, banter, news and opinion pieces.

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