Chelsea picked up their most impressive result of the Premier League season on Saturday afternoon.
The Blues have tasted a bit of everything during the opening weeks of their 2020/21 campaign, flattering to deceive with a win, defeat and draw in that order from their first three fixtures.
And the visit of Crystal Palace to west London looked pretty ominous on paper with the Eagles having opened the season with a win over Southampton and then three points at Old Trafford.
Chelsea 4-0 Crystal Palace
Nevertheless, Chelsea stared to show the form that had long been expected of them with debutant Ben Chilwell scoring the opening goal, before turning provider for Kurt Zouma to make it 2-0.
Frank Lampard's men then put the game beyond doubt with Tammy Abraham and Kai Havertz winning penalties that were both converted by the ever-reliable Jorginho.
However, there was no shortage of controversy surrounding the second spot kick with Abraham trying to get his hands on the ball, believing he should take the penalty with the points secured.
Azpilicueta's moment of leadership
But the English striker failed in his attempts to take the penalty with skipper Cesar Azpilicueta intervening and insisting that the regular shooter, Jorginho, should maintain responsibilities.
It was a brilliant show of professionalism with Chelsea, because of Azpilicueta's actions, not getting complacent and lining up for the penalty as strongly as possible despite their three-goal lead.
It should come as no surprise then that Azpilicueta drew praise for his actions during the episode and it isn't the first time that Chelsea's captain has shown his brilliant leadership skills.
In fact, we have good reason to think that Azpilicueta deserves the famous 'Captain. Leader. Legend' moniker that his decorated predecessor, John Terry, inaugurated.
Azpilicueta: Captain. Leader. Legend
To prove it, we've drawn up nine reason that we think prove Azpilicueta is the perfect captain for Chelsea and one of the finest skippers not just in the Premier League, but the sport as a whole.
1. Mediating Kepa vs Sarri
Ah yes, one of the most controversial moments in Chelsea's recent history and Azpilicueta was on hand to break up the pair during the match itself, but most crucially of all, behind the scenes afterwards.
Per the Metro, Maurizio Sarri explained: "The captain spoke to me immediately after the match, then he spoke with Kepa. Yesterday we spoke altogether, the situation is really very clear in the dressing room."
It says a lot about Azpilicueta's brilliant character that he's not only willing to break up players having a disagreement, but he's not afraid to stand up to the manager, too, when it's appropriate.
2. Reaction to James competition
Let's be honest here, there would be plenty of modern footballers who wouldn't have taken kindly to a teenager fresh from a loan spell with Wigan challenging for their position out of nowhere.
But did you see Azpilicueta complaining? Neither did we because the veteran showed his true character by making himself available to play in basically any and every position on the pitch.
His versatility last season is evidenced by the fact he played at right-back in 25 games, left-back in 18 matches, centre-back in eight fixtures and even at right midfield during four ties. Incredible.
3. Shoring up the defence vs West Brom
When Azpilicueta was brought off the bench at half-time last week against West Brom, everything was going wrong for the Blues as they trailed 3-0 and debutant Thiago Silva was struggling.
But a viral clip of the Chelsea captain organising and hyping up his defence before the resumption of play had supporters applauding him. Naturally, he kept a clean sheet and the Blues drew 3-3.
4. Disciplinary record under Lampard
You only have to look at Azpilicueta's Premier League statistics since Lampard took over to see why the multi-talented defender is so often branded a 'good, old-fashioned' type of player.
Azpilicueta has only received two yellow cards in the league since Lampard inherited the hot=seat from Sarri, including just one during the entirety of 2019/20.
The Spaniard has only one Premier League red card to his name in 274 appearances and boasted a higher tackle success rate than Harry Maguire and Virgil van Dijk last season.
5. Stepping up for penalty shootouts
True captains lead by example and Azpilicueta, despite his deep-lying position, is never afraid to lead from the front whenever his team are under the ultimate pressure: penalty shootouts.
Azpilicueta stepped up and scored his spot kick during the 2019 League Cup semi-final and final, while also making the dreaded halfway-line walk in crucial FA Cup and Europa League fixtures.
And we hastened to add that Azpilicueta was one of the first players to console Abraham when he saw his penalty saved by Adrian during the 2019 UEFA Super Cup shootout loss to Liverpool.
6. PFA Community Champion award
Chelsea fans are well aware of Azpilicueta's contributions for the club away from the pitch and the 31-year-old's efforts were acknowledged with the PFA Community Champions trophy this month.
He was nominated by the Chelsea Foundation for his 'commitment to the club’s charitable causes, notably his appearances at our monthly Community Days and his incredible support during the Covid-19 pandemic.'
7. Underrated supply of assists
Let's take a moment to appreciate that nobody supplied more Premier League assists for Chelsea last season than the six that Azpilicueta chipped in... yeh, not bad for a defender.
The Chelsea hero has turned provider 32 times in England's top division which, for context, is within 14 assists of Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson and 23 of United legend Paul Scholes.
He even formed a deadly partnership with compatriot Alvaro Morata during the 2017/18 campaign, astonishingly teeing up six of his first 10 goals in the Premier League.
8. Stopping Abraham vs Crystal Palace
Ah, the reason we're here. Sure, Chelsea had the win sewn up at the time, but this was about maintaining standards and we've seen penalty confusion cause drama in the Premier League so many times over the years.
Just imagine if this set a precedent and Abraham, or any other player for that matter, missed a potentially game-deciding penalty when they shouldn't have been taking it in the first place.
So, credit to Azpilicueta for being the mouthpiece for Lampard on the pitch by ensuring that his orders - namely, Jorginho taking penalties - were executed and respectfully adhered to.
9. Seal of approval from John Terry
But let's put all of those moments aside for one season, because there can be nobody better placed than the legendary Terry to provide his verdict on Azpilicueta's impact at the club.
Take it away, John: “He’s verging on annoying and a nightmare because nine times out of ten if you have him in your team, he’s winning.
“I always said to him that if you had 11 of you, you would have an unbelievable team. I see him as a leader and I think you can see that from when he first arrived and developing into that role."
Perfect Chelsea leader
Need we supply any more proof than that?
The fact of the matter is that great leaders seem to be declining in modern football, but Azpilicueta is the latest in a long line of brilliant captains at Stamford Bridge and long may it continue.
Nobody will ever be able to replicate the achievements of Terry - frankly, there's no point trying - but it speaks volumes that we can all agree that Azpilicueta has been the ideal successor.
There has been so much chopping and changing at Chelsea since the Spaniard made his debut and it's his remarkable consistency that has made him such a consistent fixture at the club.
- Ben Chilwell's highlights vs Crystal Palace
- Edouard Mendy's incredible journey to PL debut
- Azpilicueta stops Abraham taking Chelsea penalty