It has been a frustrating 2021 for Ben Chilwell. After signing for Chelsea at the beginning of last season, it seemed like the left-back was emerging as one of the best full-backs in Europe. He looked to have consolidated his place in the team at Stamford Bridge and his performances were impressive.
However, the appointment of Thomas Tuchel added a complication for Chilwell. A move to a 3-4-2-1 formation changed the role from full-back to wing-back. For long periods, Marcos Alonso has been preferred, as he is more suited and experienced in the wing-back role.
There has been development in Chilwell during this period. He has clearly benefited from being coached by Thomas Tuchel, even if his game time has been limited. Last season, he played a key role in the Champions League triumph. It was expected that he would be a starter at the beginning of the 2022/23 season, but he has found himself on the sidelines until very recently.
It has displayed impressive mental strength for Chilwell to emerge from this period and break back into the side. During the summer, he was one of the few outfield players not to play a single minute for England during their historic run to the final of the European Championships. He had to self isolate after being a close contact of Billy Gilmour, when the Scottish international tested positive for Covid-19.
Although he was unlikely to play a big part in the knockout stages, it prevented him from featuring in the final group game. Chilwell may have been given a chance to stake his claim against the Czech Republic.
The start of the new season has been equally frustrating, as Marcos Alonso had a full pre-season and was given the starting berth to begin with.
Chillwell has now been given a chance and he is grabbing it with both hands. The England international has scored in his last three Premier League matches, showing a much greater attacking threat than he carried last season. During the international break, he managed to score for the national team too.
It is clear that he is understanding his role to a greater level. Chelsea are looking for their wing-backs to carry a much bigger threat this season, especially against the weaker sides. Tuchel will be pleased that Chilwell and Reece James both managed to get on the score sheet against Norwich City at the weekend.
In addition to his rich vein of goal-scoring form, Chilwell is a much better defender than Alonso. The weekend win over Norwich wasn’t too difficult for the defence, but he completed both of his tackles and made three clearances to help the team keep a clean sheet.
During the previous Premier League game, he was excellent at the back against Brentford. The Chelsea defence were under huge pressure. Chilwell completed all four of his attempted tackles and made eight clearances. Only Malang Sarr (10) made more.
Chilwell will be hoping that he can now emerge as the first choice for both club and country after a difficult period. Luke Shaw’s poor form at Manchester United means that he should now be in the driving seat when it comes to the left-back role under Gareth Southgate.
Considering his recent form for Chelsea, he has already secured his place under Thomas Tuchel.
Stats taken from Whoscored