Chelsea lined up to face Brighton today with Cesar Azpilicueta playing at left back and Reece James returning to the team on the right.
This isn’t the first time Frank Lampard has used this combination, and he’s shown willing to play Azpilicueta on the left whenever it proves advantageous during games, including against Arsenal last the weekend.
That performance on the left, and the fact the change was necessary because Emerson Palmieri was having such a bad game on that side originally, will probably be enough to convince Lampard that the Spaniard is his best option on that side.
His countryman Marcos Alonso has had as many mares as Emerson this season, and has failed to impress the coach when given chances in the first team.
Add all this to the fact that Reece James offers far more dynamic attacking threat to a team that has struggled to score against weaker sides in recent games, and you have what seems like a certain recipe for a run of today’s setup as the primary option.
Of course there will be plenty of chopping and changing through the busy months to come, but at this point it’s hard to see Lampard seeing anything else as his first choice pair.
Emerson and Marcos Alonso have both failed when given the chance this season, enough times to believe that their manager has finally totally lost faith in them. James had dodgy games too, but shows far more promise and potential than the other two.
Azpi is happy to play on either side, and always provides a solid showing, despite lacking true quality in the final third. That makes this setup the optimum for getting the squad’s two best full backs on the field.
The fact that both played well today, with the captain scoring and the wonderkid showing a lot of threat down the right, only strengthen the theory that this is the first option going forward.
It also opens up the possibility of selling either Emerson or Alonso in January, to raise get rid of them while they still have value, and perhaps clear the way for the signing of an established top level player like Ben Chilwell at some point in the next year.
Both for the present and the future, this seems like the right move for Lampard right now.