Too many options to have a panicked reaction to Ben Chilwell’s injury

At the time this is being written, it is unconfirmed that Ben Chilwell will miss the remainder of Chelsea’s season with an ACL injury. Things may and hopefully will change quickly and for the better, but at this moment it seems that Chilwell will be out for a while.

That will leave Chelsea light at left wingback, at least on paper. Marcos Alonso is the natural fill in, but many have suggested needing to buy a player if Chilwell will miss what is left of the season. That would be a mistake. Chelsea may have relied heavily on Chilwell as of late, but the Blues have plenty of options to fill in for the Englishman should his season be done. A transfer signing is unnecessary.

Let’s start with who is already at the club. Marcos Alonso is obviously the next on deck. Beyond that is where most of this conversation lies though. Ben Chilwell has been cutting in and staying closer to the center more than the flank as of late. That’s a role that seems tailor made for Cesar Azpilicueta. Alternatively, Saul Niguez played as a left wingback often during his last days at Atletico Madrid. He left, in part, because he didn’t want to play that role anymore but it is surely preferable to not playing at all.

Callum Hudson-Odoi perhaps makes the most sense given recent developments. Tuchel regularly only has one player per flank create width. For most of his tenure, that has been the wingbacks. Lately, however, Hudson-Odoi has been stretching the play as Chilwell has tucked in. There is little reason why Hudson-Odoi couldn’t play very similarly if not identically as he currently does while playing as the left wingback. He will have more defensive duties and someone will have to fill in centrally in lieu of Chilwell, but overall the ideas would be the same. That also helps Hudson-Odoi avoid the selection dilemmas that will develop once Romelu Lukaku, Timo Werner, and Mason Mount are all back and in form (not to mention Christian Pulisic or Hakim Ziyech).

If none of those options tickle Tuchel’s fancy, there are some players on loan that could be of use provided Chelsea has recall clauses. Emerson wouldn’t be thrilled about coming back to be back up again, but he would be the most experienced option to do so. Ian Maatsen, meanwhile, would be an outsider’s choice. He’s done fantastically in the Championship and could step in similarly to Mason Mount or Reece James coming from the Championship. Tuchel’s shown a willingness to use the likes of Trevoh Chalobah from loan, so Maatsen could have a similar story if he were to return.

But more than anything, this is not the time to buy a player for six months that will block off the likes of Maatsen or possibly even Chilwell. It would be spending for spending’s sake and spending for a short term issue by using a long term solution. Chelsea should be smarter than that and make do with who they already have rather than who they want to have.