After months of searching, Chelsea’s quest for a left-back is finally over.
Ben Chilwell was always the top choice, and the Leicester man has finally signed for Chelsea. The 23-year-old’s arrival at Stamford Bridge is sure to create excitement for the Blues, but above all, it conveys a real sense of relief.
Frank Lampard was desperate for a new defender, in particular a left-back. With the defensively inept Marcos Alonso and the inconsistent Emerson among his ranks, investing in a new full-back was a key priority this summer – especially after a poor showing at the back.
Chelsea were plagued by defensive struggles all season, despite finishing fourth in the Premier League. Their figure of 54 goals conceded was the worst in the top half, on par with low finishers Brighton and Crystal Palace. To say that Lampard’s backline needed fixing was an understatement.
There was a gaping hole in the Chelsea puzzle, and Chilwell is the prize-winning piece.
For all the possible options, Lampard always wanted Chilwell above anyone else. Ajax’s Nicolás Tagliafico would have been a wonderful budget signing, while Sergio Reguilón of Sevilla caught Stamford Bridge eyes with an impressive season in Spain. Yet in spite of the array of talent, Lampard knew exactly what he needed.
It is easy to see why the Leicester defender was his top choice. Chilwell registered three goals and four assists this season, including a goal against Chelsea back in February. He was involved in a third of the Foxes’ goals in their historic 9-0 win against Southampton, while his beautiful strike against Watford proved exactly what he is capable of.
He has also cemented his place in the England squad, earning 11 caps for the Three Lions over two years. Four assists is yet again a promising return, with his hat-trick of assists in Montenegro arguably his finest display on the international stage thus far.
Chilwell is a solid choice at left-back, confident going forward and displaying his attacking prowess throughout the season. Although he has vulnerabilities in his defending, he remains a decent defender and one who Chelsea will surely benefit from.
There is no doubt that Chilwell will go straight into Lampard’s lineup, likely forcing Alonso or Emerson out of the club completely. He has been signed as a key starter, and will certainly be first choice for the upcoming season. The investment may seem steep in its price tag, but it is a leap worth taking.
Chelsea have been beckoning for a tighter defence, and while Chilwell may not fix those defensive problems overnight, it is a step in the right direction. One quality defender can make all the difference, and with Chilwell bringing stability on the left flank, the Blues’ backline will feel revitalised for the 2020/21 season.
Not since Ashley Cole have Chelsea had a reliable choice at left-back, with the Englishman’s departure in 2014 leaving a gaping hole at the back. It was always going to be difficult to replace the Blues’ number three, as his successors in recent years proved underwhelming in filling his legendary boots.
Filipe Luís came and left before he could leave his mark in west London, albeit with two major trophies to his name. Baba Rahman was not the right man to start on the flank, with Emerson and Alonso following suit over the last three seasons.
Chilwell can be the man to break that duck.
Whether he can reach the mighty levels of Cole is debatable, but he does have the quality to come in and truly make the left-back position his own. Over the last few years, there has been a real lack of consistent quality there – that looks set to change soon.
Chilwell is just one piece of the bursting Chelsea puzzle, which has seen the additions of Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner. The Blues are far from finished with their summer business, although they have acquired one of their main targets in a promising, talented English full-back. Their work is not done, but this is an encouraging recruitment.
The question of a title challenge at Chelsea has lingered all summer, and with Chilwell moving to Stamford Bridge, they have an even stronger case to contest the Premier League crown. Lampard could not win the Premier League with a magnificent attack and a substandard defence, instilling greater balance now that Chilwell has arrived.
Chelsea have had to be patient to get their man, and that persistence has finally paid off. Chilwell has a point to prove down in west London, one which will be eagerly anticipated as he steps onto the pitch for the first time in royal blue.
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