If a pub discussion descended into who is the best right-back in the Premier League, it would be no surprise to see Pablo Zabaleta pick up the lion’s share of votes, with the odd nod in the direction of Glen Johnson, Branislav Ivanovic or Rafael.
However, there is a real case to be made that Ivanovic is not even the best right-back at Chelsea and that Rafael is not the most superior among the under-25 age group.
Cesar Azpilicueta remains massively under-rated and has become a bit of a forgotten man at Chelsea this season, playing just a solitary minute of action before gaining a token appearance in the Capital One Cup triumph at Swindon.
Whether this is because of Jose Mourinho’s seeming reluctance to pick Spanish players or simply because he thinks Ivanovic is better, only he knows, but there are real reasons to believe that Azpilicueta is the top-flight’s best all-round right-back.
Johnson leads the way in terms of his attacking play, particularly because of his constant dribbling and involvement in the final third, but he is not the best defender.
Ivanovic has the other problem of being naturally a central defender. Although much improved from an attacking standpoint, he is not the most technical player and is still the sort of full-back that the opposition would be reasonably happy to allow to hold possession.
Zabaleta and Rafael are more like Azpilicueta through a decent mix of defensive and attacking attributes, but it is worth noting that the Chelsea man sent over more crosses than this pair last season, had a higher tackling success rate and was superior in terms of ground 50-50s.
Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao are reportedly both considering moves for Azpilicueta and this would be a shame as he is arguably Chelsea’s most complete right-back of the whole Roman Abramovich era.
Chelsea’s odds are 11/5 to win the Premier League and considering that they lost a lower percentage of games with him last season than they did without him, his absence could end up being an error.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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