What to Expect from Chelsea's Cesar Azpilicueta This Season
We've heard it all before—every rock band or pop star suffers from the difficult second album syndrome. Footballers can, too.
The psychology is such that having arrived on the scene with little expectation so much is achieved in a short period that it's difficult to emulate success at the second time of asking. From arriving under the radar, suddenly so much more is expected and for some that burden can prove too much.
Right now, Cesar Azpilicueta finds himself in a that very position for Chelsea. He arrived at Stamford Bridge to very little fanfare last summer, joining from Ligue 1 outfit Marseille for £7 million.
Whereas some musicians will hope to hit the billboard charts in any shape or form with a debut release, at 23 years old, Azpilicueta's targets in 2012-13 would have been equally as modest—adjust to English football and establish himself at a club that was then the reigning European champions.
It didn't quite work out that way, though.
Azpilicueta's arrival in England may not have rivaled the moment The Beatles first touched down in America in 1964, but come the end of the season, the Spaniard was taking on a cult status of his own with some sections of the Stamford Bridge crowd.
Christened with the imaginative nickname "Dave" by his teammates, Azpilicueta's new found moniker certainly added to this status, but it was his subtle, unassuming approach that slowly began to endear him to fans.
Whereas John Terry was ruing his misfortune with injury, "Dave" could be forgiven for reveling in it as it meant Branislav Ivanovic was often drafted into a more central role to provide cover.
Indeed, it wasn't until after Terry's knee injury suffered against Liverpool in early November that Azpilicueta got a proper shot in his favored right-back position. It may have taken a few outings to build his confidence, but it wasn't long before the Spaniard was receiving the plaudits.
It all seemed to fall into place, with 47 appearances and a place in the starting XI for a European cup final come May, more than he could have ever bargained for.
Yet like the high-rolling executives of any record label demanding higher sales figures after a band's encouraging debut, "Dave" needs to up things a notch as his manager and fans alike will expect so much more. And he is going to have a fight on his hands in the process.
Terry is back fit and despite the rumors of a move to Bayern Munich doing the rounds, it seems David Luiz isn't going to be departing Stamford Bridge any time soon, especially given Pep Guardiola's denial the Bavarians are interested in his services (via The Mirror).
It means Ivanovic is looking a likely No.1 at right-back, so competition will be gruelling.
With his slight frame and ability to attack his opposite number, Azpilicueta has an air of Paulo Ferreira about him. It was Mourinho who brought his fellow Portuguese to Chelsea in 2004, but as he adapted to life as a Premier League manager, he tended to look for a player with more physical qualities on the right side.
Who should be Chelsea's starting right-back?
First came Khalid Boulahrouz to challenge Ferreira at Stamford Bridge, before Michael Essien, a midfielder, was given the opportunity to demonstrate his talents ahead of him.
With Essien operating at right-back while on loan at Real Madrid last term, it's clear Mourinho's stance hasn't been overly altered by time either. This should alarm Azpilicueta.
With Ivanovic in the ranks, the returning Chelsea boss knows he has a man experienced and string enough in the role, which spells bad news.
It's only the greats who can overcome those second album pressures. Azpilicueta has the talent to emulate them, but will he get the opportunities?
Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @garryhayes
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