Connect with us


Chilwell’s return could be as important for England as it has Chelsea

Chelsea have lost just one match since Ben Chilwell returned to fitness in early February. So much was made of the Blues’ attacking woes that little attention was paid to how the 26-year-old full back had been missed. Now that he’s back, though, Chelsea are all too aware of Chilwell’s importance to Graham Potter’s team.

While the Blues dropped points at home to Everton on Saturday, they still demonstrated the attacking improvement made in recent weeks. After a run of six matches which saw Chelsea score just one goal, they have now found the back of the net seven times in their last three outings (against Borussia Dortmund, Leicester City and Everton).

Chilwell’s return has given Chelsea another dimension down the left wing. This was most obvious in the Champions League victory over Dortmund when the England international repeatedly burst into the opposition box to cause chaos in the final third. This created overloads and space for others in the frontline.

Marc Cucurella had been operating on Chelsea’s left side in Chilwell’s absence. Signed from Brighton for £60m last summer, the Spaniard certainly has his uses, but he lacks the mobility to be much of an outlet on the wing. On the left side of a back three, though, Cucurella has the technical ability to get Chelsea playing out from defence.

Now fit again and in form, Chilwell can improve England just as he has Chelsea. Gareth Southgate handed the 26-year-old a call-up to the squad for the upcoming Euro 2024 qualifiers against Italy and Ukraine and there’s a good chance Chilwell will get an opportunity to prove himself for the Three Lions over the two games.

Luke Shaw has also been included in Southgate’s squad and it might well be that the Manchester United player is still above Chilwell in the left back pecking order. Shaw has been an important part of a United team that has made significant steps forward under Erik Ten Hag this season with the 27-year-old a force again.

Southgate might wish to stick with the left back that played for England at the 2022 World Cup, meaning Shaw would keep his place in the team for the matches against Italy and Ukraine. On the other hand, the Three Lions boss might be intrigued by what he has seen from Chilwell for Chelsea of late.

With Reece James fit again, England could do more to create quick transition moments by playing both the Chelsea right back and his club teammate Chilwell on either side of the defence. Southgate’s team were criticised for being too conservative at the World Cup, so this could be a method of opening up space in the attack.

England’s breadth of options at right back has been a topic of discussion for a long time, but less has been said about the choice Southgate faces on the opposite side of the defence. Chilwell and Shaw are both good options, but the former might offer slightly more in terms of his attacking explosiveness.

By keeping the core of his 2022 World Cup squad together, Southgate is clearly aiming for evolution over revolution as Euro 2024 qualification starts this week. This makes sense given the progress England have made over the last three major tournaments – there’s no need to rebuild and start from scratch.

However, Chilwell is one of the few players who didn’t feature in Qatar that could push the Three Lions forward, both literally in terms of his play on the pitch and figuratively in terms of the bigger picture. Chelsea have benefited greatly from the 26-year-old’s recent resurgence and England could too.

Recent Posts