Is the competition really between Chelsea’s Colwill and Badiashile?

Benoit Badiashile of Chelsea (Photo by Richard Sellers/Getty Images)
Benoit Badiashile of Chelsea (Photo by Richard Sellers/Getty Images) /

Chelsea Twitter is hot with the topic of who should be the undisputed starter as well as who should get the go ahead at left centerback when all centerbacks are fit. Levi Colwill and Benoit Badiashile are both left-footed, which has led many to think that they’re in direct competition for places and it has to be one or the other in every starting lineup.

First of all, it can be both of them in the lineup, but most importantly, the comparison and the general discourse is unfair to Levi Colwill. No, not to the U21 European Champion, but on him. The discourse has led many to suggest they’re similar in level, this is far from the case. Badiashile is Chelsea’s most influential centerback at the moment, and it is not close.

Many wondered how a young ‘inexperienced’ centerback from France could make Chelsea’s defense look so much better almost singlehandedly. It’s because while said center back was young, he certainly was not inexperienced. Of all of the Blue’s current senior centerback options, Badiashile is the only one who made his senior debut at under 23 years of age and already had over 100 top flight league appearances. Not just top flight appearances, top flight league appearances.

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Wesley Fofana, while he had over 100 top flight appearances, had only 59 top flight league appearances. Trevoh Chalobah at the time he made his debut, had 29 top flight league appearances to his name, he now has 74. By comparison, Colwill has 17 top flight appearances, and 22 top flight appearances before making his senior debut for Chelsea.

Some may say it is the effect of being in an environment where he is trusted to start, but that would be pretending that the decision to entrust major minutes in a young centerback is only down to the head coach/manager. This is especially true because Colwill was with Brighton throughout the 2022/23 season, but only made 17 out of 38 league appearances. The discourse around him suggests that he is so good, that he should be competing with a 100+ appearances maker like Badiashile because he’s looked good when he has played.

This does not tally with what happened last season, as Roberto De Zerbi watched him for the whole season, and gave him 17 league games. Yes, the youngster was injured for four games, but injuries were not the difference between 17 games and 30 games.

De Zerbi is a fairly good judge of talent, so the same “he doesn’t recognise talent” tag that is often tacked on previous Chelsea managers cannot be placed on him. Why is it somewhat significant that Colwill did not get up to 20 league games with Brighton last season? This is because there are many players that have gone on loan and played so much because they were the clear best option in their position, regardless of age and level of experience. The Seagulls manager has made it clear that he rates the youngster, and that seems to mean to many fans that the Italian manager is willing to make Colwill an undisputed starter.

Colwill is very good, and he has shown when he has played that he can hold his own at the top level, but he doesn’t yet have exposure and experience, and while he will get there someday, he’s not there yet. Other than Silva who will soon leave, Badiashile is comfortably Chelsea’s best centerback. His passing, aerial dominance, reading of the game, and composure is second to no centerback in the team.

Todd Boehly’s Blues had a poor last season, but Badiashile’s presence represented clear improvements both in the offensive and defensive third. The Blues expected to score more than they conceded when he was on the pitch, and did score more than they conceded when he was on the pitch.

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Colwill on the other hand, while Brighton did score more than they conceded when he played, they were not expected to. These numbers in and off themselves aren’t definitive, but they give an idea of the influence a player had on a team. So is the competition really between Badiashile and Colwill? Not at all.