Watching Chelsea’s back line give up chance after chance to Brentford over the weekend was not the sight many hoped to see in a derby game. The entire defense, especially the wingbacks, looked lost as they tried to search for answers that were just nowhere to be found. Some of those answers on the flank defensively may not be on the team currently though. Right back Henry Lawerence represents one of those potential long-term solutions. The 20-year-old is out on loan this season at League One side AFC Wimbledon and while he might not be as ready as Levi Colwill for next season, he is certainly a player to keep an eye on. While his current team is at the bottom of the table, Lawrence has battled an extensive hamstring injury, and still found a way to be productive in a position that his parent club currently lacks depth in.
Centerbacks are going to be a problem with all of the possible departures in the summer, but wingback is a whole different problem. Given Ben Chilwell and Reece James’ injuries this season, Thomas Tuchel has had to turn to many players to fill two of the most important roles on the team. Marcos Alonso has done the best he can given his lateral quickness and age. The current wingback position in west London needs a spark of some youth in the near future though. While Lawrence may not be ready to get right into Premier League action, he provides depth for when Tuchel’s first choices do return to action though.
Henry Lawrence looks to be an important piece for Chelsea in the future
Lawrence suffered a long-term injury in December that kept him out until late March, but he has still found a way to make an impact on a side that looks bound for League Two. He has played a full 90’ in the last three matches for the Dons, looking more and more impressive in each match. Lawerence’s skills with the ball at his feet are truly remarkable given his position at fullback. He loves to make runs up the flanks and either drive at the defense or play a ball into a dangerous area. Even though Chelsea needs its defenders to stick to defending, Lawrence provides a dangerous source of offense when the Blues’ front line may need it.
Watching Chelsea play in the Tuchel era demonstrates the importance of the wingback position. The wide fullbacks—for all intents and purposes—are the difference makers going forward for the Blues. Even though Lawrence may need another loan for more experience, he has loads of potential to be a solid wingback or right back option for Chelsea’s first team in the future.
Colwill could be moving into the centerback position as early as next year with some of the expected losses, so Lawrence may also have a chance to work for his spot. Alonso got exposed in one-on-one situations against the Bees recently and demonstrated once again that Chelsea is in need of a youthful defender that can reinvigorate a side. During his loan spell this season, Lawrence has shown his defensive capabilities, only being dribbled past 0.4 times per game. He can recover in defense quickly and start a push on the opposite end of the pitch given his speed and one-on-one take on capabilities.
Despite the fact that Chilwell and James have both wingback spots locked up for the foreseeable future, players like Lewis Hall and Lawrence are the future of the position at Chelsea. Azpilicueta will hopefully be around for another season, but he may be asked to play more centrally given the potential departing players. At 20 years old, there is plenty of room for Lawrence to grow, especially for a player who just embarked on his first loan. The youngster provides that spark on the ball that Alonso, and even Azpilicueta, lack more often than not. Lawrence seems like the perfect player for Tuchel’s system: a wingback that gets forward and creates havoc in the box, but also has the talent to recover when a counter attack ensues.
Overall, Lawrence has impressed in his 27 appearances for AFC Wimbledon. This season is a prime example of the Blues’ youth taking advantage of what is presented to them. Trevoh Chalobah was not in the cards whatsoever heading into 2022, but he has now grown into a mainstay defender with his sheer grit and toughness. Lawrence has an opportunity in the future to make his mark, just like Chalabah did. Even though Chalabah went on three loans before making himself known to any first team manager at Chelsea, Lawrence has the raw talent that could get him into the squad within the next few years.
The Blues lost another talented, young wingback to Southampton over the summer in Tino Livramento, and making that mistake once again could prove catastrophic. This may take awhile for Lawrence to be fully ready for a chance like this. However, it shows going out and getting high-profile players may not always be the answer when the solutions are right in your own backyard.
What do you think the future holds for Lawrence with the Blues? Let us know your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter!