Chelsea became a force to be reckoned with in January 2021 when Thomas Tuchel took over as the manager for the recently departed Frank Lampard. The German took a team with serious issues at the back and turned it into a defensive juggernaut in no time at all. His system is largely to thank for this “newfound” solidity, specifically the shape. Tuchel implemented a three-at-the-back formation—similar to Antonio Conte’s title-winning configuration—that made the Blues one of the most defensively stubborn teams on the continent. This was validated by Tuchel taking them on a tear in the UEFA Champions League, a competition they went on to win.
Part of the reason Chelsea has been so successful over the last 18 months is the individuals in Tuchel’s system. The wingbacks in particular have played instrumental parts in the Blues’ triumphs under the 48-year-old. Ben Chilwell and Reece James are undoubtedly two of the best fullbacks in all of football, which speaks volumes to their importance for the west London club. It’s no surprise that in a season in which they both missed a significant amount of time, Chelsea struggled mightily at both ends of the pitch. This is exactly why new owner Todd Boehly—along with the Blues’ board—must get things right this summer.
The club is in need of some defensive reinforcements, specifically in the wide areas. However, it’s not going to be easy to fill these gaps seeing as Chilwell and James are virtual locks in the starting XI when healthy. Instead of simply targeting the best available prospects, Chelsea must look for individuals who don’t mind coming off the bench more often than not. The Blues have an abundance of other, more pressing needs though. Thus, it may need to get creative when brainstorming ideas for back-up wingbacks.
Promoting from within seems the most realistic option to fill both back-up wingback roles. It’s important to clarify that while the secondary left wingback spot is not currently open, long-time Chelsea defender Marcos Alonso is expected to depart this summer for Barcelona. This, along with Cesar Azpilicueta’s age, creates a need for numerous wide defenders. Luckily, the Blues have plenty of talent within its ranks already.
Here are three options Chelsea currently has to reinforce its wingback positions: