Cesar Azpilicueta is excited to see the impact that Chelsea's young players can make as he welcomes a change of approach under new manager Frank Lampard.
Chelsea are currently operating under a transfer embargo from FIFA which ensured Lampard was unable to bring in any new signings during the summer window.
Instead, Lampard has turned to several of the club’s younger players as he faces the daunting task of trying to close a 26-point gap to last season’s Premier League champions Manchester City.
Lampard failed to oversee a win in his first three games in charge, but captain Azpilicueta thinks that Chelsea are making the right decision in believing in youth in the bid to catch up with City and last season’s runners-up Liverpool.
"The level they (Man City and Liverpool) showed in the Premier League has been amazing," Azpilicueta said. "It’s the first time in history that a team over 90 points doesn’t win the league, so when you see the results you know they set the standard very high.
"It’s up to us, and to the other teams, to rise to their level. It’s true that the transfer ban is not a help, but I believe in the group that we have. I believe in the young players that we have. A lot of players through the academy have been on loan and we’ll work hard to carry it as far as we can.
"We have the examples of Tammy Abraham, of Reece James, of Mason Mount playing regularly in the Championship [last season]. We have the academy players who reached the final of the UEFA Youth League like Conor [Gallagher]. Charlie Brown was the top scorer.
"The left-back [Ian Maatsen] won the European U17 Championship, so we have very good players coming from the bottom. But they need time as well. It’s difficult to go straight [into the first team] but the loan team, the academy, they are doing an amazing job.
"We’re very happy to have Ethan [Ampadu], Callum [Hudson-Odoi], Andreas [Christensen] and Ruben [Loftus-Cheek] and they have been doing a very good job. I think it’s what the loan team are looking for - clubs to play, to get experience, and then when they get back they have improved.
"That’s what they are trying to do and I think the results have been very good. Maybe we don't get the credit that we deserve because we didn't get many players through the academy to the first team.
"I think that this situation is something that people felt with Chelsea that we win trophies in the academy but then we just send 40 players on loan and don't get them to the first team. I think in the last few years we have changed this.
"They are still winning trophies in the academy and some are getting minutes on the pitch so I think it is what we all want - to get academy players into the first team.
"I think Chelsea is a big team and it is difficult to get in the first team, but they are doing a very good job. We are seeing it now and we are sure we will get more and more through the years. We are ready to have a very strong team."
With Gary Cahill and David Luiz having departed Chelsea this summer, Azpilicueta ranks as one of the few senior figures left at Stamford Bridge.
It is clear that he already understands the club, knowing stories from the youth teams and the loan group as he increases his influence on the back of the new long-term deal that he signed last December.
Reece James is one player being tipped to make the grade under Lampard after he returned from a loan spell at Wigan to train with the first team in the lead-up to last season’s Europa League final.
The 19-year-old was in the EFL Team of the Season and is currently recovering from ankle ligament damage but is expected to be back training soon. Azpilicueta has trained as a centre-back alongside the right-back and he has been impressed after getting a closer look at James.
"When he came he was already used to the way we play," he added. "After he arrived, I was playing as a centre-back so he was training on the right next to me. It was easy for me to get close to him and help him with the movements and to get used to the way we play.
"The movements that the manager asks us to play. I am here to help everybody and he is an amazing kid. He has a very good mentality. No one has any doubts about his talent on the pitch and hopefully, he can be a very important player."