Chelsea still need a left back to cover the gap between now and Ian Maatsen

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 15: Ian Maatsen of Chelsea stretches for the ball that Bukayo Saka of Arsenal controls during the Premier League 2 match between Chelsea and Arsenal at Stamford Bridge on April 15, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 15: Ian Maatsen of Chelsea stretches for the ball that Bukayo Saka of Arsenal controls during the Premier League 2 match between Chelsea and Arsenal at Stamford Bridge on April 15, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images) /

Ian Maatsen signed a new four year contract with Chelsea, and did so on both his and the club’s birthday. While this will help the Blues’ in the medium- to long-term, they still need a more immediate solution at left back.

Ian Maatsen and Marc Guehi are now the only two Chelsea players to have made their senior team debut but not a Premier League debut. In a way, that’s a bit of a surprise as both play positions where Chelsea have been the most unsettled throughout the season. Maatsen is a left back, and somehow has only played 24 minutes in the Carabao Cup while Emerson and Marcos Alonso trade surges and troughs in the starting left back spot. Guehi is a centreback, where Frank Lampard has tried just about every combination without finding one that is truly satisfactory, or even consistently adequate.

The club loaned Guehi to Swansea City in January, where he played five complete games before being left out of the squad for the last four. Maatsen will almost certainly make his Premier League debut this season, and a drop in form by Alonso could give Maatsen a Billy Gilmour-esque run in the side.

The fact that’s a realistic prospect drives home the point that Chelsea need a left back who can remove the doubt around the position until Maatsen is ready to make it his own – unless they think he can be ready by next season, a la Billy Gilmour (it’s all about that guy lately, isn’t it?).

Ian Maatsen’s new contract will keep him at Chelsea until 2024, but how he will contribute to the team between now and his next round of negotiations is the open question.

Part of what makes Gilmour’s emergence so impressive and noteworthy is that he did not spend any time on loan. Chelsea bought him from Rangers’ youth system and his first-team debut was this season. Most of the Cobham debutantes have also not been on loan, but none are in a position where the Blues’ have a recurring and, at times, critical need.

The closest thing to a precedent for a player becoming a full-time first team player is Callum Hudson-Odoi, and Bayern Munich had a hand in that. A series of injuries have kept him out of this season’s lineup, with his trajectory starting to resemble Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who ultimately had to go on loan to get a full season of Premier League football.

Either or both of Chelsea’s current left backs will leave this summer.

Emerson leaving makes more sense from a performance and fit perspective, but Alonso leaving makes more sense from a financial perspective: the latter will bring in a much higher fee, particularly if Antonio Conte is pushing Inter Milan to pay whatever it takes, with their two seasons at Chelsea as justification. The combination of factors means both could be elsewhere by the end of the summer.

Regardless of what the Blues do with their current left back pair, they need a new one. Marcos Alonso’s turn at left wingback opened the door for another try at left back. His first game went very well, in large part because he had Pedro defending to his outside. Against Everton, Alonso looked more like a left back who is passable, but potentially the weak link in a team being built for multiple trophies. Frank Lampard does not seem inclined to commit to a wingback system, to Alonso’s detriment.

Whoever Chelsea buy, Maatsen will be most likely be an intermittent deputy behind the starter. He may not even be in many matchday squads, as Cesar Azpilicueta can be the reserve fullback to cover either side. At age 18, Maatsen would not be ill-served with another year with the Development Team, training with the first-team and playing the domestic cups while occasionally being on the bench and coming on as a substitute in the Premier League.

More. Everton made things easy for Billy Gilmour, but he had to know what to do about it. light

But the club may want to accelerate Maatsen’s development as they did with Reece James by sending Maatsen on loan next season. James needed only one season towards the bottom of the Championship to make his way to Chelsea’s first team. If Maatsen has a similar experience, he can return for the 2021/22 season and directly challenge whoever they buy this summer for the starting role.

That would be Chelsea in the highly unusual position of having two left backs competing to be starter, rather than having two left backs taking turns on the bench while an aging right back lines up on the left.

Even if Chelsea somehow don’t buy a left back this summer, they would be taking a series of risks by putting Maatsen into the regular rotation: they’d be risking results with the available options, and risking Maatsen by perhaps exposing him to too much training and playing stresses too soon.

dark. Next. Chelsea had a perfect setup to keep Willian and Pedro sharp in the attack

Almost every scenario has Chelsea doing something to prepare for Maatsen while Maatsen prepares for them.