Mauricio Pochettino has already solved major Chelsea problem that Thomas Tuchel couldn’t
Levi Colwill has been favoured on the left side of defence so far this season and as a result Chelsea already have their solution to Ben Chilwell’s injury against Brighton.
There is little denying that Chelsea are short of full backs at the moment. Malo Gusto remains suspended for the game against Burnley, while Reece James is still recovering from injury and suspended for the match, while Ben Chilwell could even be out until December following the injury he picked up against AFC Wimbledon.
The success of Chelsea’s recent seasons have often appeared to be hit by issues to both Chilwell and James, as key parts to the Blues’ systems. Similarly this term, while Chelsea have not enjoyed too many positive results, each of their Premier League assists have come from the full back position. Gusto has recorded two already this term, while Chilwell has also provided a contribution to a Chelsea goal.
However, while the former Leicester City defender will prove a miss for the Blues – they now miss both their captain and vice captain – he has sparingly featured in his natural position. With no shortage of injuries so far this season for Mauricio Pochettino, Chilwell was required to show his talents from a more advanced wing position, and has not always been first choice on the left side of defence.
That honour has been bestowed upon Levi Colwill for the vast majority of minutes this term, and he too has provided an assist this term with a very well-executed pass through to Mykhailo Mudryk versus Fulham. It’s a role Pochettino has been happy to see Colwill continue in.
He said last month: “When you have an offensive player in front sometimes you don’t need another full back that can go and attack but I think it’s about balance and I am happy with him because he provides very good things at the moment. Always in football we can change, we are happy with him playing there.”.
With Chelsea’s struggles in front of goal, there had been a clamour for Chilwell to return to the left side of defence, and to see Colwill more frequently in the centre. The win over Brighton offered a rare opportunity to see that set-up, and now, Pochettino, like Thomas Tuchel and Graham Potter before him, must get used to life without Chilwell for a significant period.
Injuries have left Pochettino limited in the selections he can make. The unavailability of Trevoh Chalobah, Benoit Badiashile and Wesley Fofana, have made the roles of Axel Disasi and Thiago Silva pretty obvious, given Colwill’s positioning. The use of Colwill out wide, perhaps even offers an easier decision to the 51-year-old head coach when considering his pecking order and rotation once Badiashile returns.
The Blues boss emphasised patience following the win over Fulham, and he was hopeful over Mudryk being available for the weekend despite being forced off through injury. The combination of Colwill and Mudryk has proven itself in training, while earlier in the season few were convinced outside the club.
That may be starting to change, with Colwill considered one of the stars of Chelsea’s season in a position nobody expected ahead of the season. William Gallas is looking forward to seeing the west London team’s left flank continue to develop.
He said: “He had a great game for Chelsea against Fulham. He’s a young player that is improving with every match. Physically, he is very strong and against Fulham he showed his technical quality with the assist for Mudryk, which is a part of his game that is also good. That was a quality ball for Mudryk’s goal. I’m confident that the relationship between Colwill and Mudryk will become stronger and stronger in the future. They have to keep playing more games with each other to keep building that relationship and understanding, but that is one part of this team that looks like it will give opponents problems. Mudryk is so fast. He makes everything look easy and plays the game at a tremendous pace. Maybe he needs to be a little bit more patient when he plays his final ball.”
Chelsea are undoubtedly a stronger team with Chilwell’s talent at their disposal but recent weeks have prepared the team to be without him. While Colwill has proven his ability to deputise on the left, and become a greater attacking threat as the weeks have went on, Conor Gallagher has proven himself a valuable member of Chelsea’s starting linup in 2023/24 and has not been a stranger to the captain’s armband.