Why Cesar Azpilicueta Has Been Chelsea's Bargain Signing of the 2012-13 Season
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Cesar "Dave" Azpilicueta arrived at Chelsea from Marseille in the summer of 2012. The club were on the biggest high in football, having been crowned European Champions, and were busy splashing the cash on Eden Hazard (£32 million) and Oscar (£25 million).
Azpilicueta slipped in relatively unnoticed, and the £7 million that Chelsea paid for his services seemed to indicate that he would act as a backup to first-choice right-back Branislav Ivanovic. Injuries and suspensions saw that change, but he had to wait until October 31 for his first full start at Chelsea.
A doppelgänger for former Chelsea winger Jesper Gronkjaer, Dave didn't have an auspicious beginning to his Chelsea career. During his first starting 11 appearance, against Manchester United in the Capital One Cup, he conceded a penalty in the dying minutes, allowing Ryan Giggs to give United hope of a Fergie-time equaliser. Despite this, the Blues advanced, and Azpilicueta's overall passing accuracy was 82 percent in that match.
John Terry's ban and subsequent injury meant that Ivanovic moved to centre-half, leaving Azpilicueta as the first-choice right-back. He took to this challenge with gusto, and has grown into the role ever since.
This is shown perfectly by the way he marked Gareth Bale in the match that was to decide the Champions League future of both Chelsea and Tottenham. Considering the fact that Bale is both the PFA and Football Writers' Player of the Year, Azpilicueta had a tough job on his hands.
However, he stepped up and made sure that Bale was never the best option for the Spurs' attack. Dave made four of his five tackles successfully, as well as two interceptions. He avoided committing any fouls and won two free kicks.
Whilst he should have closed down Emmanuel Adebayor for Tottenham's first goal, the issue of players backing off is endemic throughout the current Chelsea side, and it would be unfair to pile all of the blame onto Dave.
He has Ashley Cole's knack of being in the right place at the right time, and at only 23 years old, he will certainly continue to develop. His passing has remained steadily accurate at 82 percent, with one key pass every match. He has four assists and makes an average of three successful tackles and two interceptions every game.
When you factor in the relatively small transfer fee, it is easy to argue that Dave is the bargain signing of the season for Chelsea.
Statistics courtesy of FourFourTwo StatsZone and whoscored.com
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