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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.


According to Matt Law...

Chilwell has undergone a scan on the ankle he injured against West Ham United on Monday night that forced him out of his team’s 3-0 victory.

The scan did not reveal a break or any signs of a serious problem, although there could be some minor damage to the ligaments.

Chelsea and Chilwell are hoping that he can recover in around two weeks, but that would still mean the England international potentially missing the next three Premier League games against Arsenal on Boxing Day, Aston Villa two days later and Manchester City on January 3.

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Chilwell having scan as Chelsea back-up full-backs struggle in attack



Unsurprisingly, Frank Lampard is sounding bullish and upbeat. The Chelsea head coach has just been asked if his team can attack the same way now they’re missing his first-choice full-backs.

“Yes, I think they (Cesar Azpiliueta and Emerson) can,” he says. “Everything can be different with attributes. We want to attack with our full-backs. They know that. Reece (James) and (Ben) Chilwell have been doing it really well, we hope their injuries are not that bad and will be in and around the games over Christmas. It’s such a tight turnaround so we’ll see. But I was pleased with the two lads (against West Ham). They were very accomplished.”

Lampard wouldn’t say anything differently publicly. With Azpilicueta and Emerson expected to face Arsenal on December 26, he has to speak about them positively and with confidence.

But the absence of James, who was missing with a knee injury, plus Chilwell’s early substitution owing to an ankle problem, definitely contributed to Chelsea’s struggle to beat West Ham on Monday night.

The home side ended up securing a 3-0 victory but the scoreline flattered them. It took two late goals from Tammy Abraham in the space of three minutes to secure the points.

While it was not the only reason that Chelsea laboured in attack for much of the encounter — Jorginho’s struggles in midfield for 66 minutes were hard to watch — Azpilicueta and Emerson didn’t provide the team with their customary threat from the full-back positions.

The map of average positions below shows how both men (No 33 Emerson, No 28 Azpilicueta) spent the majority of their time on the pitch inside their own half. No wonder they produced just five crosses between them (Azpilicueta three, Emerson two).


One of the reasons for their lack of adventure was due to West Ham increasingly winning the midfield battle and applying pressure on Edouard Mendy’s goal after Thiago Silva had opened the scoring. But Azpilicueta and Emerson looked short of pace compared to James and Chilwell. It meant they couldn’t join in as much even if they had wanted to.

It is obviously not the worst situation to be calling upon two internationals to replace two injured players for a tense London derby against Arsenal, but it is not ideal for Lampard either.

Chilwell has already been earmarked as doubtful to face Mikel Arteta’s side. The left-back is today having a scan on his right ankle, which he twisted in the fourth minute of the West Ham game, but the extent of his discomfort was clear to see. Meanwhile, James is unlikely to return after struggling with a knee injury, even though a scan on Saturday revealed nothing serious and an operation would only be required as a last resort.

The duo have had a major role in the way Chelsea have played this season. They generally like to push forward, provide width and put crosses into the penalty area.

Here are some examples of average positions from the previous three Premier League games, which includes the defeats by Everton and Wolves. In the impressive 3-1 victory over Leeds on December 5, you can see below how high Chilwell (No 21) pushed up and he ended up with a team-high 71 touches that night. Despite sitting a lot deeper, James (No 24, was fourth-highest with 60 touches) was still effective and provided the assist for Olivier Giroud’s goal.


The caveat is that, surprisingly, the duo only produced six crosses between them (James four, Chilwell two), yet their presence in the final third acted as a distraction for their opponents which allowed other players to benefit.

Chelsea’s following losses against Everton and Wolves were a disappointment, but it wasn’t due to a lack of involvement from the right-back and left-back. At Goodison Park, James produced a team-high seven crosses, Chilwell was second with five. On this occasion, James, who was arguably Lampard’s best player, was the one operating further upfield.


And finally for the trip to Wolves, which they lost to a goal in the last minute from Pedro Neto, both of them spent the majority of their time in the opposition half. It meant Chelsea had seven players in attacking positions for the most part — against West Ham it was only four.

Chilwell produced 19 crosses and touched the ball the most (116). James, who was feeling the knee problem in this contest, still contributed five crosses and had 76 touches. They must have left wondering how they were on the losing side.


Azpilicueta and Emerson played a lot more conservatively against West Ham than Lampard’s favoured personnel in that position. Some of it could be put down to rustiness. This was just Azpilicueta’s fourth Premier League start of the campaign, the last of which came at Manchester United two months ago. He has played in three Champions League group games since then, but the speed of those fixtures isn’t as intense.

As for Emerson, he finally overtook the amount of minutes he’s played for Italy this season (364) during the London derby (418 for Chelsea now in all competitions).

Defensively they had their moments, especially Azpilicueta. He made key tackles and blocks to deny Sebastian Haller, Pablo Fornals and Aaron Cresswell. The Spaniard led the way in terms of winning back possession (nine times) and Emerson was next with seven.

Azpilicueta is still the club captain and will have fond memories of going to the Emirates Stadium, the setting for his first Chelsea goal in a Carabao Cup triumph seven years ago. And though his involvement on the pitch has been reduced, his presence remains an important one in the dressing room. As he said recently: “I try to set the example here every day with everybody because I see this as part of my family. I have been here since 2012 and my target is to always keep improving.

“I’m a team player and when the results are not good I take the responsibility as the captain. Obviously, you always try to find the way to get the results back, individually and collectively. I feel the extra responsibility. Sometimes when I see team-mates not having a good moment, low on confidence, I’m always ready to help, to talk, because it’s hard.”

Arsenal will see Azpilicueta’s and Emerson’s likely presence as a potential weakness to exploit. The other left-back option, Marcos Alonso, hasn’t played for three months after his reaction to being substituted at West Brom, so a sudden recall is very unlikely. Crucially, Lampard does have a bit of time to fine-tune things, even taking Christmas Day into account.

“A slight difference in attributes can change things to a degree but I don’t expect too much because they (Azpilicueta and Emerson) are accomplished players,” he added. “When we train we work inclusively as a whole squad and know the movements we want to make. We’ll prepare for Arsenal and onwards with our attacking plan.”

One suspects he will still be keen to have James and Chilwell back sooner rather than later.

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  • 1 month later...

I think people were way too quick to "admit they were wrong" about chilwell because he had a few decent games , he's looking like a mediocre signing at that price, if we are persisting with wing backs he will probably lose out to Alonso 

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24 minutes ago, lucio said:

I think people were way too quick to "admit they were wrong" about chilwell because he had a few decent games , he's looking like a mediocre signing at that price, if we are persisting with wing backs he will probably lose out to Alonso 

If you say people are too quick to admit they were wrong about Chilwell, then aren't you too quick to basically say "I told you he's average"? 

Admittedly, he has not been at his best recently but he has nowhere been disastrous and considering the players' form and performance level nosedived for one reason or another under Lampard, I'd wait and see what they can do under Tuchel going forward. 

I also don't think the back 3 is gonna be a permanent thing under Tuchel and if the club have any brain, they should sell Alonso ASAP (back 3 or not)!

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25 minutes ago, lucio said:

I think people were way too quick to "admit they were wrong" about chilwell because he had a few decent games , he's looking like a mediocre signing at that price, if we are persisting with wing backs he will probably lose out to Alonso 

I think his early season form was enough to suggest that he will be a good long term signing for us. You could argue the same about James who's form has also dropped off from the start of the season.

I think similar to Werner, he's been flogged to death so far this season and looks mentally and physically fatigued at the moment and is clearly low on confidence. He's also having to adapt to a new formation and role which is one Alonso is already accustomed to. I think the new manager is a good thing for him, Alonso will apply pressure to his place in the team and some rotation should freshen him up. 

Sheffield United have a knack of making pretty much anyone they play look fairly average and their own set up left no real space out wide for the wing backs to operate. 

I think over time Tuchel will move away from the back 3 and at that point there's absolutely no debate that Chilwell is the best left back at the club and when in form, for me, is one of the best left backs in the league.

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Hes struggled defensively for a bit and in phases of the season with Frank. Vs Southampton, the 3-3 game, he was particularly all over the place defensively I felt.

Said right at the beginning before we signed him defensively he wasn’t brilliant but again, have to be patient and also I think he prefers playing in a back 4 than as a wingback. 

He had a good start and for 50m you would expect that but even then over 4/5 years or whatever his contract and if he can be a bit smarter defensively and get his final ball more consistent, he will be an excellent player for us.

Would probably of still preferred Regulion because he looked very complete in both sides of the game at Seville (and in some of the games for Spurs I have seen, you can see this also) but Chilwell has been a pretty good signing so far. I hope Tuchel can get Chilwell to get his final ball to be better or more consistent because he arrives in the final third a lot as well as his defensive awareness, which can be better.

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When I saw him get hooked after a poor performance during the Wolves game, I knew it was only going to be a matter of time before Tuchel would restore Alonso to his place in a back 5 formation.

While I think we can manage with Alonso as a LWB for a while, its up to Chillwell to re-secure his place in the starting 11.

His performance has dipped a lot from his early season form. Hope the loss of his starting 11 spot will motivate him to do better in the future games.

We won't be playing back 5 forever, and Alonso will get caught out in any other formation.

Edited by Blue Armour
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7 minutes ago, NikkiCFC said:

After not playing in Cup I expected him to play today but clearly Alonso is ahead now. Rightly so. 

Just wait until Alonso drops a clanger or two and then Tuchel will see why he was out of the team to begin with.

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12 minutes ago, Jason said:

Just wait until Alonso drops a clanger or two and then Tuchel will see why he was out of the team to begin with.

Will take some good opponents until he makes those kind of mistakes. Maybe Atletico will be his first real test. 

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4 minutes ago, killer1257 said:

Will take some good opponents until he makes those kind of mistakes. Maybe Atletico will be his first real test. 

it is crazy how quickly Chilwell, Zouma, Kante, and Pulisic have fallen off the edge of the flat earth (joking about a flat earth, I am NOT insane)

Havertz too, but he is injured, has COVID long hauler effects and was not playing well anyway

Edited by Vesper
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