Chelsea have suffered a disappointing start to the season and many fans have been pointing the finger at two players they believe are to blame for their struggles.

Almost from the moment he joined Chelsea from Marseille in the summer of 2012 – a bargain at just £7m – Cesar Azpilicueta has been a symbol of dependability.

Managers came and went, but Azpilicueta’s name never left the team sheet. Why would it?

You’d be hard stretched to find a better poster boy for the phrase “model professional”, and whether playing at right-back, left-back, or as part of a back three, he was not only reliable in defence, but a dangerous weapon going forward. Any manager’s dream.

But this season cracks have started to show – and they’re not just hairline fractures.

Both of Sheffield United’s goals at the weekend came from moves down Chelsea’s right side, with Azpilicueta getting nutmegged by Enda Stevens in the build-up to Callum Robinson’s first, before he failed to prevent Stevens’ cross for the late equaliser, accidentally turned in by Kurt Zouma.

Azpilicueta was responsible for two of Manchester United’s four goals in the heavy defeat at Old Trafford on the opening weekend of the season and gave the ball away 22 times that day – more than any other Chelsea player.

On Saturday it was 20, and it’s now becoming hard to argue the Chelsea captain isn’t becoming something of a weak spot in the line-up – one which needs its senior players to stand up and be counted in order to allow Frank Lampard to feel confident in continuing to put his trust in youth.

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