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21. Ben Chilwell

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Tears in my eyes. Finally a proper left back. 

Don't want to kneejerk too soon but if he keeps this up this will be my worst misjudgement ever, and I've made some in my time.

  • 2 weeks later...

Ben Chilwell: 'Talk to someone' if you're struggling with mental health


Ben Chilwell says talking about his mental health has "helped a lot" after he struggled with low confidence during the first lockdown.

Chilwell posted about his struggles on social media and said exercise helped him through a difficult period.

The England left-back, 23, moved to Chelsea from Leicester in the summer transfer window.

"I didn't talk to anyone and just kept it to myself for a few months," he told BBC Football Focus.

Chilwell, who missed the end of the 2019-20 campaign with Leicester because of a heel injury, added: "Last season I struggled with confidence and the fact that I've come out and spoken about it might help others to talk to people and tell people about their problems.

"Mental health is a massive thing at the moment, particularly with this second lockdown. There's someone at the club who talks to a lot of the players.

"And I just thought well a lot of the boys are talking to him, maybe I should just go and have a chat with him and see what it's about, and it helped me a lot."

Chilwell has advised anyone struggling with mental health to reach out to someone.

"If you are struggling and you feel like you're by yourself then talk to someone, whether that's a friend, a family member or something confidential like on a helpline, then just do it," he said.

The defender has made four appearances for Chelsea so far and scored on his debut against Crystal Palace.

"I think it's difficult when you come into a football training ground because you're all fighting for 11 shirts when there's 25-30 of you, so there is that competitive element, but we're all humans and there are going to be people who are struggling," he said.

Chilwell moved in with his mum during the first lockdown to avoid being on his own.

"Being able to spend all that time together was nice and it's something we haven't been able to do for years," he said.

"But the fact that you're not able to see your team-mates for what ended up being a few months was difficult because when you're used to spending day in day out with them, you take it for granted seeing them every day."

Unlike the first lockdown, elite football will continue during the second one, which is due to run until 2 December.

"Thankfully football can go ahead and I hope that can be something that the fans and people at home can continue to watch and hopefully it can help them get through it," said Chilwell.

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Marauding Chilwell is exactly what Lampard and Chelsea needed


Chelsea’s most fortunate goal against Sheffield United also happened to be the one that highlighted most clearly how impressively this team is coming together for Frank Lampard. When he darted behind Max Lowe towards the back post in the 34th minute at Stamford Bridge, Ben Chilwell didn’t plan for Hakim Ziyech’s in-swinging cross to connect flush with his right hip and bounce beyond Aaron Ramsdale into the net. It was simply an unexpected reward for doing what he was expected to do.

“I’m getting told constantly in training by the manager and the staff to get to the back post,” Chilwell told Sky Sports after the match. “Hopefully I can get a few more goals there this season. We’ve worked on it a lot: Hakim cutting in, crossing it to the back post and me or Timo (Werner) being there. Although I didn’t know much about it at the time, I’ll take it and it’s another goal, so I’m happy.”

The goal was made possible primarily by the exquisite technique of Ziyech, whose spectacular range of dinked and whipped passes and crosses from the right flank shattered Sheffield United’s best-laid defensive plans. But it also needed the movement of Chilwell, who is playing a far more significant role in Chelsea’s attacking system than anyone outside of Lampard and his backroom team could have anticipated.

Chelsea’s first threatening move of the match was started and almost finished by their marauding left-back. Chilwell bypassed Sheffield United’s high press in the fourth minute with a precise chipped pass forward into the chest of Tammy Abraham, and surged upfield as the striker worked the ball out to the right. Reece James’s eventual low cross went through several bodies across the six-yard box until Chilwell arrived, forcing a good save from Ramsdale. It was the first of his three shot attempts in the game — the same number as Werner.

Chilwell is averaging 1.2 shot attempts per 90 minutes in the Premier League so far this season, making him the fifth-most frequent shooter in the Chelsea squad among players to have clocked at least 180 minutes on the pitch. Last season he averaged 0.6 shot attempts per 90 minutes in the Premier League for Leicester City. Little wonder, then, that he has already been directly involved in as many goals (four) in his first three home appearances for his new team as he was in 52 home games for his old one.

Chelsea's most frequent shooters 2020-21
Abraham      3.3
Mount      2.7
Werner      2.6
Ziyech      1.9
Chilwell      1.2

Even more impressive is the fact that Chilwell has managed to expand his attacking contribution while playing his part in a much-improved Chelsea defence that has conceded five goals in the nine matches he has started, registering six clean sheets. Making such high-level contributions at both ends requires tremendous energy, a role well suited to a man who once represented Bedfordshire at cross-country as a teenager. Sources have told The Athletic that Chilwell’s high-intensity output for Leicester was a big reason Lampard wanted him.

Lampard always considered mobility and quality in the full-back positions as crucial to the way he wanted Chelsea to play. Chilwell was regarded as the perfect fit for the left, which is why the likes of Alex Telles, Nicolas Tagliafico and Sergio Reguilon were never more than back-up candidates. There was also an expectation that James would continue to develop and eventually usurp club captain Cesar Azpilicueta on the right, though that has happened even quicker than expected in the opening weeks of the new season.

Chilwell’s arrival and James’ lightning-quick progress have given Chelsea a dynamic full-back pairing with the potential to rival Liverpool’s brilliant double act of Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold. Lampard has also found a stable tactical framework to accommodate their forays forward. Chilwell has quickly developed slick on-field chemistry with Mason Mount, who frequently assumed the role of left-back in possession against Sheffield United. On the opposite flank, James smartly picked his moments to overlap Ziyech, unleashing a barrage of precision crosses from a variety of angles while Mateo Kovacic provided support and willing runs.

Chelsea’s average positions vs Sheffield United

Between them, Ziyech and James delivered 11 of Chelsea’s 16 total crosses against Sheffield United. Chilwell didn’t attempt a single one. Instead, he embraced the opportunity to be more of a finisher than an initiator and registered more touches in Sheffield United’s penalty area (five) than in his own (four). “I couldn’t ask for more,” he added afterwards. “It’s a dream at the moment. Running forward and having the likes of Hakim and Reece on the other side who want to come in and cross is perfect for me.”

Chilwell’s touch map vs Sheffield United

The seamless integration of Chilwell — or “Chilly”, as everyone at Chelsea, including Lampard, calls him — into this team is even more remarkable when you consider that he arrived at Cobham with a heel injury that delayed and disrupted his preparations for the 2020-21 season. Those who know Chilwell credit Lampard with resisting the urge to risk playing him sooner, when the team’s broader defensive structure was in disarray and both Marcos Alonso and Emerson Palmieri were struggling individually.

Chilwell made a good first impression at Cobham weeks before he made his Chelsea debut. His smiley, easy-going nature quickly allowed him to build dressing room relationships beyond the friendships he already had with the likes of Mount and Abraham from England camps, and Lampard’s backroom team immediately saw how coachable he was. He also signalled his desire to listen and improve by asking to meet Ashley Cole shortly after his move from Leicester was confirmed.

“I had a conversation with him and the first thing he asked me was, ‘What do I need to make it at Chelsea?’” Cole said of their meeting. “He was so enthusiastic, he wanted to learn and he wanted to be a fan favourite.”

Chilwell’s early performances have put him on that path. Reaching the rarefied heights of the greatest left-back of his generation in Chelsea’s pantheon of legends will require years of consistent excellence, but there is one area in which he could surpass his idol sooner rather than later: Cole never managed more than four goals in a single season. Chilwell is already halfway there and if he keeps menacing the back post, the evidence of recent weeks suggests the ball will find him.

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2 minutes ago, Superblue_1986 said:

Just come off injured.

Looks to be his back, and hopefully more of an impact injury rather than any sort of muscle injury. Fingers crossed, cannot stand international breaks just hoping everyone comes back fit.

Better be prepare to see Emerson or Alonso back in the starting XI next weekend... :rant:

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1 minute ago, Jason said:

Better be prepare to see Emerson or Alonso back in the starting XI next weekend... :rant:

We'll see, Chilwell tried to carry on but it seemed Southgate withdrew him as a precaution. It didn't look particularly serious, hopefully it's just a bang and a week's chance to heal will hopefully be ok.

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2 minutes ago, Jason said:

Better be prepare to see Emerson or Alonso back in the starting XI next weekend... :rant:

Welp Emerson is playing good vs Poland so he may be a back up but i wish that Ben has nothing serious.  You cant imagine how i hate internationals break.

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6 minutes ago, Superblue_1986 said:

We'll see, Chilwell tried to carry on but it seemed Southgate withdrew him as a precaution. It didn't look particularly serious, hopefully it's just a bang and a week's chance to heal will hopefully be ok.

Hope so! Southgate better let Chilwell return to Cobham after this regardless of whether it's serious or not. England's midweek game looks like a dead rubber at this point.

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3 minutes ago, Jason said:

Hope so! Southgate better let Chilwell return to Cobham after this regardless of whether it's serious or not. England's midweek game looks like a dead rubber at this point.

I think Southgate is a pretty abysmal manager, piggy-backing off one of the easiest world cup runs to a semi final ever known.

However, he seems a pretty reasonable and professional person when it comes to managing the players. I could see him wanting to keep a good relationship with Premier League managers.

Like you said, that midweek game looks like it'll be a dead rubber and as a result I can see him not starting anyone who's played in both games, so hopefully he'll also give Mount a rest in that one too.

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