Cesar Azpilicueta still has plenty to offer Chelsea despite the emergence of Reece James and the summer signing of England left-back Ben Chilwell, according to former Blues winger Pat Nevin.
The versatile Spanish defender made 49 appearances in all competitions last season, more often playing ahead of James at right-back but also playing on the left or, at times, in a back three.
Boss Frank Lampard was full of praise for the 31-year-old and Nevin sees no reason why he cannot continue to play a big role, as Chelsea look to compete on four fronts.
“Azpi had his best season for Chelsea last season, which is amazing considering the pressure he was under at the start of the season from Reece,” Nevin told West London Sport.
“Reece could be the right full-back – and he might end up in midfield – for the next 10 years, and that’s fine because he is good enough.
“He reminds me of a Stevie Clarke [Scotland boss and former Blues right-back who also played on the left and as a centre-half] who I used to play with.
“Both are totally comfortable in lots of positions. Do not be surprised if one day Azpi played as a holding midfielder.
“I am not going to write him off because he was written off at the start of last season and that was a mistake because he became one of the most important players at the club.
“He must have been in the running for player of the year.
“With the Premier League, Champions League and the domestic cups there will hopefully be a lot of games and because of Covid-19 the season will be concertinaed so you will have to change it, move things about and adapt.
“You will need Reece and you will need Azpi and you will need everybody.”
Chelsea address left-sided problem
On the other flank, Marcos Alonso and Emerson never managed to do enough to convince Lampard that they were ready to become an automatic choice on the left, with Alonso’s attacking instincts much more suited to playing as a wing-back.
Nevin is sure that bringing in Ben Chilwell will prove to be good business – and not just because the club have signed the current England left-back.
Nevin believes Chilwell’s arrival brings balance and – once again – versatility to a position that has become a problem in recent seasons.
“You are buying a certainty,” Nevin said.
“Ben Chilwell can play as a left-back and as a left wing-back and will be absolutely fine.
“He can also play as a left centre-back in a three, which people tend to forget.
“He is comfortable in that position so you are buying two to three players in one.
“With right-back and left-back sorted and the midfield to front are exceptional you are getting really close.
“Sometimes you see certain teams and you think there are lots and lots of problems, but you put one or two players in and it fixes the whole thing.”