Is Ben Chilwell the left back Chelsea needs?

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 01: Callum Hudson-Odoi of Chelsea and Ben Chilwell of Leicester City during the Premier League match between Leicester City and Chelsea FC at The King Power Stadium on February 01, 2020 in Leicester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
LEICESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 01: Callum Hudson-Odoi of Chelsea and Ben Chilwell of Leicester City during the Premier League match between Leicester City and Chelsea FC at The King Power Stadium on February 01, 2020 in Leicester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images) /

Left back has proven to be Chelsea’s biggest weakness this season with Frank Lampard losing confidence in both Marcos Alonso and Emerson at different points during the season.

Lampard and Chelsea have identified the signing of Leicester City’s Ben Chilwell as their number one priority in the upcoming transfer window. The likes of Alex Telles and Nicolas Tagliafico serve as cheaper alternatives should the Blues fail to get their man. Before analyzing Chilwell’s game and how he would fit into this Chelsea team, it is important to first understand what Lampard requires and demands from his fullbacks.

As evidenced by performances this season, Lampard wants his team to control the game by dominating ball possession. However, having ball possession is one thing and using the ball to create chances is another. Lampard expects his fullbacks to be extremely involved in an attacking sense, running up the pitch to support the attackers while also providing width to the team. This allows Chelsea’s wingers to move inward into more goal scoring positions. With this in mind, let’s look at the attributes that a full-back must have to play in Lampard’s system.

The first trait a fullback must possess is tremendous pace and stamina to continuously run up and down the channels. In possession, they are required to stay wide, providing width to the team. However, a defender’s main job is to defend, so they must possess the stamina to run back and carry out their defensive duties when Chelsea loses the ball. Watching Leicester this season, one can observe that Chilwell is extremely quick and is able to run up and down his flank with ease. He is also young—still only 23—and is extremely fit, leaving no room for doubt regarding his capability to run the channels.

The second attribute that a fullback must possess is the ability to cross the ball. While Reece James has set the bar quite high in terms of crossing, Chilwell is not too far behind himself. Lampard’s fullbacks are encouraged to join the attack. By staying wide and providing width to the team, they often find themselves with enough space to take a touch and put a good cross into the box.

Both Emerson and Alonso have been dismal with their crossing this season, which has made Chelsea overly dependent on their right side when it comes to chance creation from wide areas. In regards to crossing, Chilwell can be very dangerous. He has completed more crosses from open play (79) than any other Leicester player—including their chief creator, James Maddison. The thought of having James and Chilwell spraying crosses into the box from either wing should arouse every Chelsea fan while instilling fear into opponent defenders.

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Finally, needless to say that Lampard expects his fullbacks to be able to defend. This is where questions can be raised about Chilwell. Although he has performed well for the majority of the season, helping Leicester cope with the loss of Harry Maguire in defence, there have been some inconsistencies against the better teams.

Now, inconsistency is the only thing that is consistent about young players. However, if Chelsea is to spend anything close to what Leicester value Chilwell at, the Blues will be expected to sign a finished product. Chilwell will be expected to work hard defensively to minimize any mistakes. Chilwell will come with an enormous price tag on his head, his mistakes will not be accepted in the same way the fanbase accepts mistakes from its young academy players, who have not cost Chelsea millions in the transfer market.

That being said, Chilwell has shown signs of great improvement this season and there is no reason to believe that he will not continue to do so, should he make the move to London. Chelsea legend, and best left back of all-time, Ashley Cole, was quoted saying that he would love to see Chilwell at Chelsea. Further, Cole thinks he would be a great signing for the Blues.

Chelsea is aware of Leicester’s ridiculously high asking price for Chilwell. With four years still left on his contract, a fee of around £85 million was quoted when Chelsea attempted to sign the left back in January. However, with the impact of COVID-19 affecting the finances of all teams, Leicester could be pressured to sell for a lower fee. Chilwell could also be tempted by the prospect of playing with several of his England teammates in Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, to name a few. This could persuade him to force a move to west London.

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With Lampard and Cole’s approval, fans have no reason to believe that Chilwell will not succeed at Chelsea. Whether he justifies his price tag or not is another debate, but it is time to back the manager’s choice and hope that a deal can be agreed between the two clubs. With James and Chilwell, fullbacks will no longer be a position of concern for Chelsea in the coming decade.