Thomas Tuchel believes Ben Chilwell is now back ‘in the race’ for a starting spot after a difficult few months for the defender.
Ahead of our Champions League opener tonight, it has not been lost on the Blues boss that Chilwell’s last competitive action for club or country was the European final against Manchester City at the end of May.
The 24-year-old was superb that night, as he was throughout the run-in playing a relatively new wing-back role, yet failed to register a single minute for England at Euro 2020 and has started this campaign as understudy to Marcos Alonso at Stamford Bridge.
While Chilwell’s attitude has never wavered, Tuchel admits he found it tough to go from the high of Porto to a non-playing role for the Three Lions at the summer tournament.
‘It has absolutely been difficult for him and I think that’s pretty normal,’ said the boss. ‘He came from 90 minutes and a strong performance in the Champions League win.
‘He had a good end of the season in general and played a lot of minutes for us, with many crucial games at a high level, but then it was a tough Euros for him individually because there were chances where he thought he could have played but he did not.
‘I know that it was a tough one because he did everything to push the team but you don’t feel it really if you don’t sweat it out sometimes on the pitch, if you never wear the shirt and if you’re never really involved.
‘It is a strange feeling, so to keep training for four or five weeks continuously and then he had a personal break, it was hard for him to totally relax and to get this personal disappointment off the shoulders.’
Tuchel feels there was some hangover carried over into pre-season for the full-back, who returned to Cobham a little later with the rest of those involved in summer tournaments and found himself behind a revitalised Alonso when the new term began.
‘When he arrived back, I felt him a bit mentally tired, like he was still worrying about the situation,’ continued Tuchel. ‘At the same time, he had to accept it, but he was very unlucky.
‘Now because Marcos was here the whole pre-season, he did every single training session and he took this opportunity so great, with such a huge quality and attitude.
‘Marcos was crucial for us from the first day in training and then he delivered in Chilly’s position. We have two specialists for the same position so it is a tough competition for both of them.’
Chilwell has been an unused substitute in our three Premier League outings to date, as well as the Super Cup final in Belfast, but his head coach believes he is now ready for action as we start an assault on three fronts in the coming days with the Champions League and Carabao Cup returning.
‘We had some talks with Chilly about the situation,’ added the boss. ‘He knows that I would have done the same thing if it had been the other way round, to trust him if he was here and showed this kind of personality and attitude like Marcos did.
‘They push each other and there are no further worries for Chilly. He has to be a bit patient and keep on training. It took some time, we had to give him a little bit of time to be a bit more patient with himself, to find the joy again and to find things a bit easier on the pitch and to not want to force it too hard.
‘This is where we are now. Unfortunately, we only had three substitutes in the last matches in the Premier League otherwise we would have made him play some minutes, but he’s in the race now. The situation has changed for him, he’s in a good shape with his attitude and on the pitch so he can play any minute.’