Chelsea FC: Cesar Azpilicueta has played every minute of Premier League football since Antonio Conte became head coach
Chelsea are enjoying life under Antonio Conte once again.
The reigning Premier League champions may, like everyone else, not be good enough to catch Manchester City in the race to win the title in 2017-18, but they have certainly re-established their reputation as one of the best teams in the division.
Much of that is down to Conte, the head coach, finally managing to field his preferred XI on a consistent basis, having failed to do that in the opening weeks of the campaign due to a number of injuries.
The likes of Eden Hazard, the forward, and energetic midfielder N’Golo Kante have missed games this term – and Chelsea have been noticeably poorer without the pair to call upon.
However, there is one player who is arguably more important than everyone else in the Chelsea squad, and he has been a key figure at the club since Conte arrived at Stamford Bridge.
Cesar Azpilicueta was regarded as one of the best defenders in English football when Jose Mourinho was Chelsea manager, but he has developed even further under Conte. His best position is now centre-back – rather than left-back – though he has also shown excellence in a right wing-back role.
Azpilicueta, 28, has also developed his offensive game this term, chipping in with five assists and one goal in his first 12 Premier League matches.
But Azpilicueta’s finest trait, the one which really appeals to Conte, is his endurance.
Incredibly, since Conte arrive in west London, Azpilicueta has played every single minute of every single one of Chelsea’s Premier League matches. That is a run of 50 top flight games in which Azpilicueta has started and completed the full 90 minutes.
He may not be the most talented player in Chelsea’s squad – and he is far from the most heralded – but Azpilicueta can stake a real claim to be called Antonio Conte’s favourite, and most important, player.