What is going on with Ben Chilwell?
Few Chelsea voices would have predicted that Chilwell would be sat during the first international break looking at no competitive minutes for club and country so far this season. But that is the reality the defender finds himself in as the days count down till Chelsea’s next Premier League game at home to Aston Villa.
Chilwell recently passed his one-year anniversary at the club since signing from Leicester City for £45m in August 2020.
Reflecting on his first year in west London, Chilwell asserted himself as a regular member of Thomas Tuchel’s starting eleven and a positive influence in the dressing room.
So far in the 2021/22 season, Chilwell finds himself as a fringe outsider. Despite being selected by Gareth Southgate for England’s EURO 2020 squad, he was sat behind Luke Shaw for the entirety of the tournament and was then excluded from the squad for the World Cup Qualifiers against Hungary, Andorra and Poland.
Returning to Chelsea late meant he played no part in any of the Blues pre-season fixtures and Marcos Alonso started the UEFA Super Cup against Villarreal in Belfast in his usual left wing-back role.
Questions have been posed in each of Chelsea’s three Premier League fixtures against Crystal Palace, Arsenal and Liverpool when the English fullback would expectedly return, but that has yet to happen.
Should Ben Chilwell and supporters be overly concerned at his lack of minutes? What does it say that his England compatriot Reece James quickly got back into Tuchel’s plans without much fuss? And with Alonso being nominated for Premier League Player of the Month, is there any chance Chilwell takes his place against Villa?
For all of the social media fuss, Tuchel tried to clarify the situation following the draw at Liverpool.
“For Ben Chilwell, it’s very easy, He came back with the latest group. When he arrived Marcos Alonso had five weeks in his legs from pre-season. He played the first competitive matches after a fantastic pre-season. He was simply way more ready physically which was natural because of the training session and his fantastic games.
“He played the Super Cup final and three Premier League games. Also, we only have three substitutions allowed and this is a huge problem.
“Chilly needed his time in training to adapt to the intensity. He is ready now but now wasn’t the time to push him into the cold water. It is a bit sad because you have more tactical opportunities if you have five changes. I don’t understand the arguments of the little teams that they have a disadvantage in this case. I was also a coach of a little team and I would have loved to have five players available.”
Tuchel is a smooth operator in front of the press, but actions will speak louder than his calming words. Even with the concern for Chilwell’s lack of minutes, the consensus still appears to expect the 24-year-old to return to first-team action within the near future.
The reality of a more congested schedule for Chelsea will naturally lead to more rotation and greater opportunities for fringe figures to step out from the shadows. Chelsea will play 7 times across 22 days before the October international break.
Even if Alonso’s general match fitness has been ahead of Chilwell, the Spaniard will likely be rested for some of those games.
Chilwell has been behind in the pecking order under Tuchel before and responded in the best possible way to reclaim his place. Early on the German’s reign, Alonso was brought back in from the cold and scored a brilliant volley in Tuchel’s first win against Burnley.
Alonso would go onto start several more games and Chilwell appeared to be behind his older peer in the eyes of Chelsea’s new head coach. Though as soon as the quality of opposition changed and the team needed more defensive security, Chilwell was in and never looked back.
Tuchel has shown he is not afraid to utilise a big squad, and in the coming weeks Chelsea will face stern tests against a confident Spurs side and a mammoth clash with title rivals Manchester City.
Even with Alonso’s strength, Chilwell is the better all-round defender and was quickly showing his versatility to grow into a better wing-back last season, best demonstrated by his superb performance in the Champions League Final.
This is a minor setback, but supporters should be confident Chilwell has the quality and character to respond to it and reclaim his spot when given the chance.
What do you think about Ben Chilwell’s lack of minutes so far? Follow our CareFreeChelsea Writer Daniel Childs on Twitter to get involved in the discussion and give us your thoughts in the comments section below.
Source by Football London