Chelsea manager Frank Lampard has explained why he chose to drop club captain Cesar Azpilicueta for their Premier League match against Crystal Palace on Saturday.
The Blues went into the game on a run of five consecutive victories in the Premier League and chasing a win that would see them move second in the table, at least momentarily.
While Crystal Palace had a free week, Chelsea entertained fans in the Champions League on Tuesday evening, coming back from 4-1 down to draw 4-4 with Ajax in a game that saw two red cards, two own goals and two penalties.
Was why Azpilicueta dropped by Lampard? Five things to know…
- Cesar Azpilicueta had started Chelsea’s last 73 Premier League games – the longest current run in the competition for an outfield player.
- But the Spaniard was replaced by Reece James for Chelsea’s game against Crystal Palace.
- James was given his first Premier League start after scoring against Ajax in midweek.
- The 19-year-old has been subject to high praise after breaking into the first team.
- And Lampard believes it was a nice time to give James a start.
Azpilicueta scored in that game and thought he had also got the winner only to see his effort ruled out for a handball by Tammy Abraham in the build up. Teenager Reece James also impressed in the comeback, scoring the equalising goal after coming on from the bench, but many had expected Azpilicueta to continue at right-back.
The Spaniard has been an ever-present for Chelsea over the past few seasons and prior to Saturday’s game Azpilicueta had started the Blues’ past 73 Premier League fixtures – the longest current run in the division of any outfield player. His last rest came on November 29, 2017 as Antonio Conte’s Chelsea beat Swansea City 1-0.
However, that run came to an end on Saturday afternoon with James handed his first Premier League start at right-back. Nathan Ake now holds the record, starting 65 Premier League games in a row for Bournemouth.
And Lampard has admitted his decision came due to the form of James at a good time give the youngster minutes.
“I spoke with him because I’ve got huge respect for him, I think he’s a legend of the club,” Lampard told BT Sport.
“For me, as a captain, he’s huge in what he delivers, from the message down to the rest of the players.
“It’s more that I’ve got two choices at full-back there and Reece has done well. Azpi’s in great form as well which is a nice time to give Reece some minutes, and let’s see.”
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Chelsea name their youngest ever Premier League starting XI
James’ inclusion at right-back for Chelsea brought the average age of their starting XI down to 24 years and 88 days.
24y 88d – With an average age of 24 years and 88 days, Chelsea have named their youngest ever starting XI in the Premier League, and the youngest of any team in the competition this season. Kindergarten. pic.twitter.com/s1T4l9RG8B
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 9, 2019
Never before have the Blues named a younger starting XI in the Premier League, while it was also the youngest in the competition this season, with Lampard continuing to show faith in the club’s academy graduates.
James was joined by Mason Mount, Fikayo Tomori and Tammy Abraham in the starting Xi while 21-year-old Christian Pulisic was handed another start after impressing in recent weeks.