Maurizio Sarri revealed in his press conference yesterday that Chelsea have trained this week with Cesar Azpilicueta at centre back.
The loss of Antonio Rudiger to injury against Manchester United last week has pushed the squad to breaking point, and while we still have a starting pair in David Luiz and Andreas Christensen, behind them we’re scraping the barrel.
Sarri had also admitted that Gary Cahill isn’t fit either, so should one of those two go down hurt, we’ll be scrambling. Even Ethan Ampadu, whom fans would love to see get some minutes, has been out for some time with fitness problems.
Sarri on centre back issues: "We are in trouble with the centre backs. In the last two training sessions we played with Azpilicueta as a centre back, just in case, I think he is the only other one who can play there." #CFC
— Nizaar Kinsella (@NizaarKinsella) May 1, 2019
The option that the manager seems to have gone for as a backup plan is Azpi moving into the middle. Some Chelsea fans have insisted that is now his best position anyway, given how good he was there under Antonio Conte. But this is a whole different ball game (well, not literally).
Azpi playing on the right of a back three was indeed a perfect match. It suited his skillset, and wasn’t too much of a shift from the right back slot where he’d grown up.
But playing as a full centre back in a back four is totally different, and we can’t expect him to be good at that just because he’s capable in a three.
Bearing in mind how little protection central defenders get in Sarri’s system anyway, Azpi at centre-back must remain an emergency strategy – and hopefully one we don’t have to use.
We’re up against some really tough strikers in these last few games, the last thing we need is Jamie Vardy running at an out of position full back on the final day.