Chelsea enters the business end of the season with a match against Leeds United up first. Top four remains the target for Thomas Tuchel and Co, while any additional silverware would be a bonus. In the backroom, planning must already be underway over squad composition for the following season. As such, some key decisions are required to be made—who stays, who goes and who comes in?
We take a look at the fullback/wingback department in the second installment of this series:
Chelsea has a left-side asymmetry in its current squad when it comes to fullbacks/wingbacks. Marina Granovskaia and her team were tasked with selling players late in the last summer window following a mega-money splurge that saw seven new players come in, including left back Ben Chilwell. However, the Blues’ failure in doing so meant that they had to deal with three players vying for the same spot for the season.
Meanwhile, the imbalance stretched to the right, as well. Cesar Azpilicueta’s conversion to a right centreback lately means that the team currently only has one proper right-footed fullback on its roster, Reece James. Chelsea started the season with Chilwell and James as its fullback pairing under Frank Lampard. The Stamford Bridge outfit has reasons to keep both the players around for another season, even if they have failed to consistently be a part of the starting XI, especially in the case of Chilwell.
The Englishman arrived with a very expensive tag on his shoulder this summer, when the Blues picked him up from Leicester City. He might have recently lost his place in the team to Marcos Alonso, however, he was arguably one of the best left backs in the league for the first half of the season. Moreover, Chelsea has spent what is akin to a small fortune for his services and it does not make sense to cut him loose so soon.
Speaking of Alonso, he is not going anywhere, is he? The Spaniard has been at Chelsea for five seasons now and has survived four different managers, all of whom have put their trust in him at one point or another. While he may have a limited skillset, it is his near mastery of those particular skills that make him an asset. He is tall, has an excellent left foot and is a threat on set pieces. If Tuchel sticks to a system that deploys wingbacks, keeping him around is a no brainer.
Finally, James is going nowhere either, as previously toughed on. The former academy starlet enjoyed his breakthrough campaign last year, deputizing for Azpilicueta. However, he took over from the Chelsea captain at the start of this season and has since been one of the team’s most consistent performers. The sensible thing the club could do is to provide him with adequate back-up, which pushes him to do even better while at the same time not threatening to dethrone him completely.