Levi Colwill first came into the spotlight (for Chelsea fans who can only watch broadcasted matches) when he was starting in the FA Youth Cup at just the age of 16. He impressed (the game against Bradford City comes to mind) and not long after found himself starting development squad games, still at 16 years old, when Marc Guehi and Clinton Mola became unavailable. Simply – if you’re starting at this high level in the Chelsea academy at such a young age, there’s a decent chance you’re a special player. Hudson-Odoi really broke onto the public scene when he was 16 and became the star man in the FA Youth Cup run, with his top bins goal against Manchester City springing to mind, and more recently we have seen Charlie Webster and Jude Soonsup-Bell feature at this age too – the two standout players in their age group, along with by Harvey Vale.
There is just something about a left-footed player, but I can’t really describe it in words – they seem as if they play with such elegance, which Levi certainly does. He’s just turned 18, meaning he can still play in the FA Youth Cup this season, and with Lewis Bate, Tino Livramento, Myles Peart-Harris and Soonsup-Bell beside him, they certainly will be looking to get the trophy back after last season’s heartbreak loss to Manchester City in the final.
I was thinking this the other day, and without hyping him too much, Levi kind of has the perfect build for a centre-half. When you go on Pro Clubs or Football Manager and try and build a defender, it’s actually very similar to him. He’s tall (self proclaimed as you can see in the tweet below…), quick, strong, composed and has got leadership skills as shown by captaining the Chelsea academy sides on multiple occasions – I mean what else do you want?
I guess the thing which most people are interested in is how does he compare to the likes of Marc Guehi and Fikayo Tomori? Well, this certainly isn’t easy. I was a fan of Marc really early on and saw the potential when most were talking about Billy Gilmour and Tino Anjorin, and Fik was one of my favourite players at the club when he featured under Frank Lampard. Without trying to overhype him too much… I genuinely believe Colwill has a higher ceiling than both, and I’m not saying that lightly. Although, there’s a very good chance this may be completely wrong, as no one knows at all the way someone transitions from academy football to men’s football.
I think one of his best qualities is his game management and the way he opens up space on the pitch. Due to his composure on the ball, he has zero problems in running past the pressing attackers and then he’ll lay it off to the midfielders like Lewis to do their magic. Colwill –> Bate –> Livramento –> Soonsup-Bell is a play we’re hopefully going to see A LOT in the future. Something which I have loved about this Chelsea side under Thomas Tuchel is the way the defenders know when to hoof the ball up for Werner to run onto, and when to play it out of the back into the midfield, with this being significantly seen in the games against Liverpool and Atletico Madrid. Levi is PERFECT for this. He plays inbetween the lines brilliantly, and also has his ‘signature’ move where he shifts the ball onto his left foot and just waits a few seconds before playing it up towards Bryan Fiabema or Soonsup-Bell, who normally end up with the ball at their feet. He’s got a very similar passing range to Antonio Rudiger, and as I said before looks extremely elegant on the ball. Not that it really matters how someone looks with the ball, but for some reason fans of the game now are obsessed with aesthetics and hence think Tammy Abraham and Kurt Zouma aren’t good players.
Ever since John Terry left the club we have always tried to compare one of our academy products to him. We did it with Jake Clarke-Salter who has had some success out on loan but will probably never appear for Chelsea again, and Andreas Christensen who has been involved a lot more, but still has failed to hit the heights which were once described for the Danish defender. Can Levi be that person? The English defender certainly can be, with their natural defending instincts and ability on the ball being pretty similar, but that’s such a big comparison I’m in no way making yet.
In the last two seasons, he’s mainly played as a Left Centre-Back for the Blues. Left footed defenders are certainly admired in the football market, and it is one of the reasons there was such strong interest in re-signing Nathan Ake before he went to Manchester City. Chelsea lack a left footed centre back in the squad at the moment, and that could be a trait which gives the nod to Colwill ahead of the others around him. In the last U23s game against Manchester City we switched to 4 at the back where he started next to Dujon Sterling who is much more of a RB/RWB, and despite conceding a very unfortunate goal due to a wicked deflection, in the last few minutes of the game he scored a brilliant goal from a set piece to make it level.
I don’t actually think I’ve mentioned his defending enough. After all he’s a defender and that’s the main thing he should be good at – and he’s brilliant. He reads the game extremely well – knows when to go into the tackle or back off. His big structure allows him to get into challenges strongly and he wins a lot of headers, in both boxes. Despite being 6’3, he’s quite quick and is definitely able to make recovery tackles. Making vital interceptions is also a big part of his game, something he’s done a lot of at LCB.
For me, and many others, the games which confirmed that he was good enough was his performance in the EFL Trophy group stage, where he defended brilliantly against League 1 and League 2 forwards. He completely translated his game from the development squad into professional football, and like we’ve said with Tino Anjorin many times, he looked and played like an experienced player on the pitch at the age of 17.
My thoughts on the defender can pretty much be summed up in this tweet by @throwaway1297. The fact is that Premier League 2 is too easy for him at the moment and to really develop he needs to be challenged and move out on loan. The Secret Scout reported a few months ago that he potentially would be involved in first team training next season, although at the moment this seems very unlikely with us having four centre backs and Azpilicueta all playing regularly at the moment and enjoying life under Tuchel, while the likes of Guehi and Tomori could return from their loan spells and stay at the club from this Summer. So what next? He wouldn’t want to delay himself and wait around, so a loan deal for Levi seems very likely. If Swansea don’t get promoted, perhaps they could be an option and he could follow a very similar pathway to Guehi, or he may even look at Tomori’s success at AC Milan so far and see a foreign loan as a viable option. His future this Summer is one to keep an eye on, with his contract running out in 2023, so he’ll be looking for a clear plan for his entrance into the first team picture before potentially signing a new deal.
His character is also great. He seems someone who’s shy and humble, but on the other hand got that aggression to him. If someone goes in for a hard challenge in him in training or a senior player tries to let him know who’s boss, then bet you know that he’s not going to sit down and he will be squaring up.
I’ve written reports on Billy Gilmour, Tino Anjorin, Henry Lawrence and Lewis Bate quite early on, and since then they’ve all developed hugely, so I really hope the same will happen with Colwill. Like I say each time, although this may sound extremely hypocritical, it’s very important not to overhype them too much as they’ve all still got a lot of work to do and football is a very ruthless sport in that sense. But on the other hand, people need to start trusting our academy players, because as we’ve seen with Reece James, Mason Mount, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Tammy Abraham – they’re our best players and that’s because we’ve got an elite academy.
Written by Paree