Reading too much into team sheets is a dangerous game. Single game starting XIs seldom tell the story of a manager’s thoughts and feelings, especially early in the season, writes The Pride of London.
Chelsea is going to be all about rotation this year after the summer signings—Romelu Lukaku and Saul—complete the Blues’ depth in almost every position. The left centerback role is likely the only position on the pitch with a significant quality drop between the starter (Antonio Rudiger) and back-up (Malang Sarr). Nevertheless, the left wingback role has been rotated the joint-least.
Marcos Alonso has started the season off in scorching form. Now one of the longest tenured members of the Chelsea squad, the Spaniard found himself nominated for the Premier League Player of the Month award in August. He’s played in every contest thus far for the Blues as supporters are left scratching their heads at the continued absence of Ben Chilwell. Alonso began the Champions of Europe’s maiden UCL contest of the 2021/22 campaign, which means it’s now officially time to worry about Chilwell’s role in the team.
It’s worth noting the English wingback did get a run out in the contest for the first time all season. Chilwell replaced Alonso in the 83′, so while he technically played his first minutes, it was a brief cameo. 10 minutes on the pitch is hardly enough to get match fit, especially considering Thomas Tuchel noted the difficulty of working Chilwell into a regular game with only three substitutes. Chelsea plays Tottenham, Manchester City and Juventus in the coming weeks, so unless the FA Cup contest against Aston Villa is going to be Chilwell’s official full return, there aren’t many great opportunities to work him into the side. It’s necessary to at least bring him into the rotation considering the Blues will eventually play 60+ matches this season.
Alonso is more than capable of holding down the position on his own in a back three. He was widely regarded as one of the world’s best wingbacks under Antonio Conte and the same can be said about him today. Despite this fact, he simply cannot handle the workload by himself over an entire season, nor should he be asked to do so.
Chelsea spent £50 million on Chilwell in the summer of 2020 for a reason. Although he originally joined to play left back under Frank Lampard, he quickly established his place in Tuchel’s starting XI after learning the ropes at wingback. Chilwell is seen as the future of the position in the same way Reece James is on his opposite flank. He already has a Champions League final win under his belt following his debut season in the capital. Ironically enough, that’s also the last time he’s started a competitive football match. Chilwell was in line to feature heavily at Euro 2020 before Luke Shaw’s fine continued form saw Chilwell relegated to the bench. Further, Gareth Southgate inexplicably kept selecting Kieran Trippier over the young defender. These puzzling absences took a mental toll on the 24-year-old according to Tuchel. The German gaffer knows his players better than anyone, but there are still questions that need asking ahead of some massive fixtures.
Tuesday was a step in the right direction for Chilwell. Mental health permitting, the wingback should be starting every important game for the Blues as he continues to develop in his prime. Chilwell is one of the world’s best wingbacks when in good form. After spending a large sum of money on the versatile defender last summer, Chelsea needs him to work. The Englishman has already shown what he is capable of doing when given starting minutes. Alonso has been excellent, but this is the same player the Blues were talking about sending to Inter Milan just a matter of months ago. Chilwell is the future and it’s about time his minutes reflect that fact.