Cesar Azpilicueta twists the knife into the Frank Lampard era by insisting ‘EVERYTHING has improved and the team has better feelings’ under Thomas Tuchel – and admits it ‘hurt to be a substitute’ under sacked boss
- Thomas Tuchel has overseen a revival at Chelsea after Frank Lampard’s sacking
- Lampard was sacked after a dismal run of form that left them ninth in the league
- Now the Blues sit fifth, having won four of their last five top-flight matches
- Cesar Azpilicueta has hailed the timely arrival of Tuchel at Stamford Bridge
- Chelsea face Atletico Madrid away in the Champions League on Tuesday night
Cesar Azpilicueta has compounded Frank Lampard’s misery by lauding the timely arrival of Thomas Tuchel at Chelsea, claiming ‘everything has improved’ under the German manager.
Chelsea were in the midst of a crisis before Lampard’s sacking at the end of January, with the club languishing ninth in the Premier League amid a dismal run of form.
But Tuchel has overseen a mini revival at Stamford Bridge, winning four of his first six top-flight matches that has seen his side move up to fifth and with a great chance of securing Champions League football come the end of the season.
Thomas Tuchel has overseen a mini revival at Chelsea as they resume their European journey
Cesar Azpilicueta has hailed the instant impact of the German manager at Stamford Bridge
And Azpilicueta is buoyed by Tuchel’s impact, insisting the Blues have become much more solid in recent times ahead of their crunch first leg against Atletico Madrid in the last-16 of the Champions League.
The Chelsea skipper told Mundo Deportivo: ‘Six weeks ago we weren’t at our best. Now with Tuchel everything has improved. The team has better feelings. Although the Premier has nothing to do with it, reaching the Champions League on a roll is good news.
‘The solidity has recovered, fewer opportunities are granted and that speaks of the work of the group, from the first attacker to the last defender. With the new coach we try to control the games with and without the ball.’
Speaking specifically about Lampard’s dismissal, added: ‘The results just weren’t good. Frank has been a myth as a footballer, I was lucky enough to share a dressing room with him and after he trained me, but (Roman) Abramovich and his executive were the ones who decided to change course.’
The decision to sack club legend Frank Lampard in January infuriated Chelsea supporters
Despite being captain, Azpilicueta also found his game-time limited under Lampard, as the club legend gave Reece James the chance to pin down his position at right back for the future.
The Spaniard had to be patient to get the call up into the starting XI but he has since admitted it ‘hurt’ not to be a regular under Lampard.
‘It becomes more complicated when one is used to playing,’ he admitted. ‘It was not a scenario, much less desired, but I respected the coach and tried to help from the outside. I stayed calm and prepared to enter when necessary.
‘You always want to play and it hurts to be a substitute, but as captain I put the collective interest first because I don’t consider myself a selfish footballer.’
Azpilicueta and Chelsea are looking to the future now and up next for them it’s LaLiga leaders Atletico in the Champions League at the last-16 stage.
Tuchel’s side face Atletico ‘away’ on Tuesday night in the first leg in Romania due to travel restrictions between England and Spain, and Azpilicueta is under no illusion regarding the task that awaits Chelsea.
Azpilicueta is very wary of Atletico Madrid, insisting Chelsea need to produce the ‘perfect’ tie
When asked what worries him about Atletico, the right back replied: ‘Everything. It is a stable team, reliable on a defensive level and with high quality alternatives in attack. And intensity has always been a hallmark. It is no accident that they are where they are.’
Chelsea’s recent upturn in form, which took a slight knock when they drew 1-1 at Southampton on the weekend, has given them a big boost ahead of the resumption of their Champions League campaign.
Not long ago their chances in Europe’s top tier competition had been completely written off and while their hopes still remain slim, Azpilicueta claims they can go far but they must produce a ‘perfect’ tie against Atletico.
‘Talking off the field leads to nothing,’ he added. ‘Atletico will put us to the test and it is on the pitch that we will see if Chelsea deserves to be considered a candidate for the Champions League. I think we have our chance, but we have to have a perfect tie.’