Despite the news cycle currently revolving around the attacking options linked to Stamford Bridge (more specifically, German attacking options), it is evident that Chelsea have struggled defensively this season. While centre-backs who are an upgrade to our existing options are not available in the market in abundance, another position which has been suspect this season is the left-back. We are in luck in this regard, as several left backs such as Tagliafico (Ajax) and Telles (Porto) have all but confirmed their desire to leave their respective clubs. However, the player that continues to be linked with us is Leicester full-back Ben Chilwell, who is highly rated by one of the greatest LBs of the Premier League era, Ashley Cole. In fact, he has publicly claimed that he would love Chilwell at Chelsea. To add to this, Chilwell has also publicly stated that Ashley Cole was his idol growing up. It looks like a match made in heaven; a question of when and not if. The only roadblock in what otherwise seems like a smooth sailing move for all parties involved is the massive fee which his club will command- reports emerging that Leicester would be unwilling to part ways with him unless they receive a fee around the whereabouts of 80 million pounds, which Manchester United paid for Harry Maguire a year prior. But, who is Ben Chilwell and what are his strengths? And is he really an upgrade on our current options? Is he better than Telles and Tagliafico who are available for a significantly lesser fee? Let’s find out.
I think he’s quality and I’ve heard he’s a Chelsea fan, too, so I would like to see him here.– Ashley Cole on Chilwell in December 2019. Source- Talksport
Benjamin James Chilwell is a product of the Leicester City youth academy, and was awarded the academy player of the year in 2015. He got his first taste of Premier League action under ex-Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri, and hasn’t looked back since, going from Fuchs’ understudy to replacing him entirely in a short span of two years. The 23-year-old’s stellar rise to the top has been commendable, and is a driving force behind Leicester’s impressive season as they sit third in the table. Despite his tender age, he is just five Premier League appearances shy of hitting the 100 mark. Chilwell has also cemented his spot as the first choice left-back for the England national team.
Style of play
Ben Chilwell, in short is a well-balanced full-back. He has contributed to two goals and four assists in all competitions this season, which is a reasonable figure for a left-back, particularly one who is not on set piece duty. Apart from this, Leicester rely more on the dynamic duo of Jamie Vardy and James Maddison for attacking threat, hence excluding Chilwell from playing in a very advanced position. His best performance of the season was in the 9-0 drubbing of Southampton, where he grabbed a goal and two assists. Chilwell also scored against us in the 2-2 draw at the King Power Stadium, which could turn into a bittersweet moment for him if the move to the opponents of that game materialises.
As we can infer from the above graph, he completes 0.83 dribbles per game with a 36% success rate, and attempts about 61.7 passes per game with a completion rate of 78.3%; however, he completes just 69% of his passes in the opposition box. He gets dispossessed 1.4 times per game, controls the ball poorly 1.9 times per game, and concedes possession 21.7 times per game. His cross completion rate stands at 19% and he whips in just 0.7 crosses per game, which is a very low figure for the full back of a top side. For the purpose of comparison, Alexander-Arnold accurately completes 2.3 crosses per game, while Reece James completes 1.1 crosses per game, and Emerson stands at 0.9 (to level the playing field- Trent is on another level).
Moving on to the defensive aspects, Chilwell wins 1.6 tackles per game, with a 58% success rate. He makes 1.1 interceptions and 2 clearances per game. He also gets dribbled past one time per game, and has committed two errors leading to shots, none leading to goals. On an average, Chilwell wins 46% of his ground duels, and 61% of his aerial duels, which is impressive. The following image shows his heat map for the season, and we can establish that he is all over the left hand side of the pitch, signifying his intent to gradually advance with the attack.
If we do compare our current options, Alonso and Emerson, to Chilwell, we can derive the following conclusions-
- Alonso evidently leads in the attacking aspects of the game such as goals and shots per game due to his advanced positioning.
- Emerson leads in the number of dribbles completed per game
- Emerson also concedes possession the least number of times, and has the fewest bad touches per game while also getting dispossessed fewer times than Alonso and Chilwell
- Chilwell leads in the defensive aspects of the game, attempting more tackles while also boasting the highest tackle success rate. He also leads in clearances and aerial duels won.
- Interestingly, Emerson boasts the highest duel winning percentage, with 68%. He also gets dribbled past significantly lesser than the other two options (0.4; for comparison Chilwell- 1 and Alonso- 1.1)
- Chilwell has the lowest passing as well as crossing accuracy among the three.
The players linked to the club have not been taken into consideration. For in depth analysis of Tagliafico, click here.
Despite Emerson seeming the best option, it is interesting to note that these are merely per 90 statistics. He does have a long injury history, and keeping him fit for a consistent period of time could be a challenge. Alonso is very poor defensively. Hence, Chilwell is a stable and balanced option when compared to both. However, the fee Leicester are reportedly demanding is an exorbitant figure, and could hence prevent this transfer from going through. With cheaper alternatives available on the market, Chelsea could pressurise the club to sell for a lower fee. Even if the Englishman commands a slightly higher fee to these alternatives, he boasts invaluable Premier League experience, and could be worth the extra chunk. Despite the naked eye and statistics painting a picture not favouring Chilwell, Lampard and Cole seem to admire him. And as former professional footballers, I am certain they have a better understanding than us, and it is our job to back their choices.