Frank Lampard has hailed Cesar Azpilicueta as a “huge help” to his Stamford Bridge revolution, in confirming the Spain full-back will continue as Chelsea club captain.
Reece James started ahead of Azpilicueta for Monday’s 3-1 win at Brighton, firing a long-range thunderbolt to underscore Chelsea’s strength at right-back.
Azpilicueta came off the bench in the closing stages as he continues to shake off the after-effects of a hamstring problem, but will clearly tussle for game time all season with James.
Lampard insisted however that Azpilicueta can continue to play a pivotal role as club captain, even without starting every game.
“Yes, absolutely Azpi is club captain this season, he’s done a great job of it,” said Lampard.
“Since I’ve been in the role, he’s been a huge help to me, how’s he’s handled himself on and off the pitch, how much he feels for the club, how much he communicates within the squad.
“We can all see the quality of Reece James and the competition I have in that right-back position, but Azpi’s professionalism means he’s going to be as important for us this year as he always is. He is officially club captain.
“I can’t ask players who are as competitive as Azpi to be content with missing one game. Every player here should be keen to play every game.
“I know Azpi is like that. I know him from very well from playing with him.
“I don’t expect saints who say, ‘okay, I’m not playing this game, everything’s fine and rosy’.
“Players need to want to play but, when you have someone like Azpi with the qualities he has as captain, I know he gives everything.
“I know that whether he plays or there might be times when he doesn’t he will have the same positive impact on the group off the pitch.
“That’s all I can ask for, and it’s a pleasure to have him here for that.”
Chelsea’s £200million summer rebuild will only toughen the path to the top for young stars like Tammy Abraham and Callum Hudson-Odoi.
Bayern Munich are rumoured to be circling Hudson-Odoi once again, having failed in the past to prise him away from Stamford Bridge.
Lampard insisted he has no idea of any Bayern interest, before reiterating the need for Hudson-Odoi to keep pushing his selection case through hard work.
Asked about any Bayern interest in Hudson-Odoi, Lampard said: “I’ve got no idea, I’ve not got anything; I don’t know if there is any truth on it, so not much to say I suppose.
“Similar to Azpi, I’d be surprised if any player is not disappointed when they don’t play games. I’d be very surprised by that.
“With Callum, the young player he is, he has to absolutely focus on the work he puts in on the training ground day in, day out.
“I’ve said it now quite a few times. When I select a team, I have to think about how players trained, how they play within the team, how we work on the ball and, just as much, how we work off the ball.
“I have no favourites here, I don’t lean on people because I like them. I lean on people because I want people to be successful, which, in turn, will hopefully make everybody here happy.
“Callum is a young developing player and a lot of talk has come his way because of the way his career has gone at a young age.
“The facts remain the same for all young players in the squad, they have to work every day with the idea to put themselves in the frame to start.”