After completing his debut season without signing any players, Frank Lampard has already taken an early plunge into the market as he looks to assemble the next great Chelsea squad. Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner have been brought in for a combined £85 million, and should go a long way towards improving the side’s goal tally next season. With Kai Havertz likely to follow later in the window, the gaping holes remaining seem to be at the back. Arguably the number one priority should be bringing in a new goalkeeper to replace the hapless Kepa Arrizabalaga, with a commanding centre back not far behind, but left back also remains a position which has long been in need of strengthening. Chelsea Twitter has exploded over the past couple of weeks after Sky Sports reported potential interest from the Blues in Sergio Reguilón, with many delighted to see anyone other than Ben Chilwell lined up to finally succeed Ashley Cole. So how good is Reguilón, what can he bring to the team, and is the excitement in his signature solely down to him being a far cheaper alternative to Chilwell?
Reguilón has rapidly made a name for himself out on loan from Real Madrid at Sevilla this season. The 23 year old helped his side to a fourth placed finish whilst earning himself the title of the ‘best left back in La Liga’ in 2019/20. He excelled as part of Spain’s third best back line, leaking just 34 goals across the season (fewer than Barcelona and bettered only by the Madrid clubs). Supposedly available this summer for just £18 million (he is behind Marcelo and Ferland Mendy in the Real pecking order), he offers a cost-effective solution to a weak area of Chelsea’s squad, strengthening it whilst allowing more funds to be pumped into solving the goalkeeper and centre back areas.
Despite being defensively solid, it is in the attacking phase that Reguilón stands out. He has contributed 6 goals in 29 league starts this season, the same as both Chilwell and Marcos Alonso (admittedly having played 1000 minutes more than his compatriot). He also manages to create a chance and take 1.3 shots on average per game, above Chilwell in the combined metric but well below Alonso’s 3.1 across the two. However, it is his ball-carrying ability which really sets him apart from most full backs. The Spain under-21 international completes an incredible 1.7 dribbles per game, the fourth highest figure in Europe amongst natural left backs (behind Alphonso Davies, Theo Hernandez and Noah Katterbach). His ability to drive up the left flank with the ball could prove useful as this season’s regular starting left backs – Azpilicueta and Alonso – are often slow in transitioning from defence to attack. With an energetic presence bombing up and down the left and overlapping Pulisic, our ability to cause overloads and trouble the opposition’s right flank would massively increase.
With one of Azpilicueta and Alonso starting every game at left-back since the season’s restart, a lack of pace in the position has been highlighted. Reguilón is comparatively rapid, clocked at speeds of 33.5km/hr, and his speed combined with his low centre of mass make him a frightening prospect on the break. From the footage I have seen of him, he appears to have very quick feet too, somehow conjuring the ball past opposition defenders when at full flow. His speed of foot and mind certainly make him an appealing prospect to Lampard, and while Chilwell is actually slightly faster (34.7km/hr), he manages a mere 0.7 dribbles per game, highlighting just how good Reguilón is going forwards.
An aspect of Reguilón’s game which will boost his standing with Frank Lampard is his impressive progressive passing. The Spaniard completed an average of 10.18 progressive passes (defined as a pass 30m long from inside the player’s own half or 10m long from inside the opposition half) per league game this season and despite his brave style of play – he always looks to play out from the back regardless of how intense the opposition press is – he still complete 81% of his passes. He is ahead of Chilwell in both metrics (9.6 and 72% respectively) and his attacking instincts are best illustrated by the fact that before the season’s postponement in March, he had taken the second most shots of any La Liga full back.
Something else which marks out Reguilón as a player perfect for Lampard’s system is his ability to slot into a pressing side. His 0.7 tackles a game are dwarfed by Chilwell’s 1.6, but he doesn’t need to rely on fighting for the ball when he has become such an expert at reading the play, managing 2.7 interceptions per game (compared to the Englishman’s 1). His 8.57 recoveries and 4.04 counter-pressing recoveries per game paints picture of his aggressive, front-foot game. His pace also allows him to quickly recover if he misses an interception or if space behind a high line is exploited. These traits make him perfect for Lampard’s positive, attacking brand of football and would surely help to sure up a porous defence next season.
No player is perfect and one of the main concerns over Reguilón is his lack of height. Standing at just 5 foot 8 inches tall, he is not aerially dominant. He manages to win 1.3 aerial duels per 90 minutes, not far off half the figures of Alonso and Chilwell (2.3 and 2.1 respectively), and this won’t fill fans with hope given Chelsea’s vulnerability to conceding from set pieces. However, Reguilón is taller than the best Premier League left back of all time, Ashley Cole, and with some work on the timing of his leaps he could quickly put concerns over his aerial prowess to bed.
Although the 23 year old regularly looks to create chances from crosses, averaging 5.34 per 90 minutes – 6th most in La Liga – he isn’t always accurate. His cross completion rate of 39% is considerably lower than his peers in the top 6 and marks out his delivery as something to improve upon. The main causes for encouragement is that he regularly finds himself in dangerous positions and with some practise he could become an expert at whipping in dangerous balls into the box from a variety of areas.
Having watched footage of Reguilón in Spain and in the Europa League, as well as taking a deep dive into his underlying numbers, it is clear that he is an exciting prospect. Although this piece is not a discussion of whether Chilwell or Reguilón should be signed this summer (stats of other left backs were included for comparison), it is clear that at just £18 million, Reguilón would represent a much smarter investment than the £80 million rated Chilwell. The Spaniard mixes pace, quick feet and an aggressive style of defending to make him a very competent modern full back, and with some work on his crossing and heading he could grow into one of the most well rounded in the league. With the transfer window well and truly underway, now could be the time for Chelsea to pounce and secure one of the bargain signings of the summer.
Written by Daniel New