Cesar Azpilicueta: Why Chelseas Captain Is Right to Back Maurizio Sarri Amid Supporter Scrutiny

Sunday saw Cesar Azpilicueta score the goal that may have saved Maurizio Sarri's job, heading home a controversial late equaliser to spark the Blues' 2-1 revival against Cardiff City in the Welsh capital.

The potentially pivotal victory keeps Chelsea firmly in the hunt for a top four Premier League finish, Sarri's side currently sitting just one point behind fourth-place Tottenham. However, the victory was marred by increasing dissension between the traveling support and the under-fire manager.

After watching their side trail 1-0 for much of the second half, Chelsea supporters audibly vented their frustrations with the Italian, chanting: "We want Sarri out."

With time running out, Azpilicueta headed past Neil Etheridge from an offside position before Ruben Loftus-Cheek notched the winner in the first minute of stoppage to secure all three points and likely buy Sarri an ounce of breathing room, despite growing pressure from the media and supporters alike.

Following the match, Azpilicueta, captain of Sarri's side this season, came out in defence of his maligned manager, pleading for a united front (as quoted by The Independent): "We have to give the fans what they expect and the bad moments are when we all need to be together.

"We are all in the same boat and will push in the same direction. I know the fans want us to win, and when the results are not there, we are all responsible.

"On Wednesday from the first minute, we have to create a good atmosphere on the pitch. 

"I know the fans will be behind us, but we have to give them what they want - fighting spirit, great football, and scoring goals. That's what we both want and we have to pull in the same direction."

Maurizio Sarri

While these quotes might seem like typical football jargon from the captain of a sinking ship, under a manager presumed to be ousted from his job in the near future, Azpilicueta's comments carry importance.

On the one hand, Azpilicueta is a hugely popular and influential presence across all sides of the Chelsea divide, being Sarri's focal point of leadership while also retaining his place as a terrace hero.

The versatile defender, gritty and uncompromising, has garnered respect from every corner of the football globe, regardless of whether an individual falls into the 'Sarri In' or 'Sarri Out' camp. He is the perfect figure to assemble genuine support from Chelsea fans, with his reputation as a modern Blues legend still intact despite the sub-par season in SW6.

In addition, a captain - any captain - coming out in public support of his manager carries a huge amount of additional weight at a club with the chequered managerial history of Chelsea's. Notable and much-publicised rifts between Chelsea managers and players has led to the demise of numerous bosses including Andre Villas-Boas and Luiz Felipe Scolari. 

Andre Villas-Boas,Didier Drogba

The famed 'player power' at Stamford Bridge has reigned supreme with the inevitable outcome being the continuous managerial sackings. Now, however, the leaders on the Stamford Bridge pitch appear to be backing their manager despite the testing campaign. 

In February, Eden Hazard backed Sarri and his brand of football in an interview with The Times, saying: "He's an old man but the way he thinks is the same way I think about football.

"We are still learning about his concept. We are doing well. I like this kind of football."


Chelsea's leaders are going against the grain and backing their manager, publicly, and in the face of intense supporter and media scrutiny. This influx of player support points to a major cultural change within the entire football club and while it may come too late for Sarri, with his fate potentially a lost cause already, the next manager could be the benefactor of an atmosphere conducive to sustained, collective, success.

Despite the troubled campaign, Azpilicueta and his side could still end the season with a flourish as the ongoing battle for Premier League top-four places rests on a knife-edge. Chelsea host Brighton on Wednesday night with an opportunity to climb above Manchester United after the Red Devils' defeat to Wolves on Tuesday.

Sarri could also end his first season in England with a European trophy as Chelsea prepare to face Slavia Prague in the Europa League quarter-final stage, the first leg set for April 11, at the Sinobo Stadium in Prague.

Source : 90min

Source: 90min