Before he departed on international duty, the official Chelsea website caught up with Ben Chilwell to get his thoughts on his fantastic start to life in SW6, discuss his role in a new-look Blues team, and hear his one wish for the months ahead…
Of our six summer recruits, it was perhaps the arrival of Ben Chilwell that received the least fanfare. He had long been linked with a move to Stamford Bridge, and, unlike the others, joined from a Premier League side.
Chilwell’s quality was well known, and his place in the England team established. But it has immediately been apparent why Frank Lampard made Chilwell such a priority when it came to remoulding his Chelsea squad.
The left-back has arguably been our best and most consistent performer so far this season. Seven of his 10 appearances in blue have ended in clean sheets, testament to the defensive stability he has added to the team. Going forward, no defender has been involved in as many goals in the Premier League (four), and only two have created more chances for team-mates.
His start to life at Chelsea couldn’t really have gone any better, could it? That’s the first question we put to Chilwell pitchside in the wake of our 4-1 victory over Sheffield United, a performance and result that carried us into the current international break on such a high.
‘Since I’ve come in I have felt pretty comfortable,’ acknowledges Chilwell.
‘That’s down to the manager, the coaching staff and the players. Everyone has made me feel very welcome. Also, the style of football we play suits me perfectly.
‘The manager and the coaching staff are always telling me to get in at the back post and get up there and score more goals and get more assists. I can’t be happy just to put crosses in, but want to score and get more assists. I have tried to add that to my game this season.
‘Defensively, playing alongside the likes of Thiago Silva, Zoum, Reece, Azpi, Edou behind, everyone that’s been there has been brilliant. When you’re playing with people around you who you are confident in, it gives you more confidence in the way you play. I feel like I have found it comfortable because of how everyone has been with me.’
Perhaps what has most stood out during Chilwell’s early days as a Chelsea player has been his capability both in defence and attack.
‘It’s a balance,’ he notes. ‘It’s not getting up there and being at the back-post and leaving the rest of the defence vulnerable, and it’s not staying in defence and not getting forward.
‘You have to pick and choose your moments. What I have found that is brilliant is when I do get forward at the back post and I turn round, I have got Mason there covering me, N’Golo, Jorginho, they are covering me, and then you’ve got Thiago and Zoum who eat everything up at the back.
‘I know when I do get forward the players behind me are doing a brilliant job in terms of stopping the counter-attack.’
Chilwell says he has also benefitted from playing in front of the dugouts for at least a half a game, with the lack of crowd noise meaning there is no difficulty hearing Lampard’s instructions. ‘He makes it very easy because he talks you through the game,’ explains Chilwell, ‘helping me with positioning, and giving me little tips when the ball is on the other side.’
The tactical work done at Cobham has also helped make Chilwell’s integration into the side ‘seamless’, as he puts it. ‘When it comes to the weekend everyone is singing off the same hymn sheet. We all know where we need to be when someone has the ball, and defensively we all know where we need to be when there’s a turnover.’
In contrast to his fellow new signings, Chilwell did not need to move country; Leicester is just a couple of hours up the M1 from London. But it was still the first transfer of his career, and it was completed in the midst of a global pandemic. The toughest element, Chilwell says, was leaving a club he had been at since he was 12, where he was ‘comfortable’ and that ‘felt like home’.
‘But I feel like I needed a new challenge in my career,’ he continues. ‘Chelsea are one of the biggest teams in Europe, and with the players that were brought in, I was eager at 23 years old to come and try help this team win trophies.
‘Talking to a lot of the other boys that have come in, they are saying the same. If you look at the way we’ve been playing the last month, if we keep working hard, then over the next year, two, three, four, five years, we can win a lot of silverware.’
The interview is drawing to a close, and Chilwell’s attention will shortly turn to representing his country. Before he heads off into the fresh, autumnal night, we have one final question.
His performances on the pitch have been superb, as has the speed with which he has gelled with his new team-mates. But with no fans in the stadium yet - at least not in England - does he feel like he gets Chelsea as a club?
‘I have actually asked the boys a lot about what Stamford Bridge is like with fans because I’ve not experienced it myself. They’re all saying it’s amazing here, especially Champions League nights.
‘It’s been frustrating for me there have been no fans here, especially having scored twice at the Bridge,’ he admits, taking a moment to look around our deserted home.
‘It would have been nice to celebrate with the fans, but the important thing is we are winning. Hopefully when the fans are allowed back in we will be in a good position in the league and we can bring them exciting football.’
We can only share his frustration. For now, observing Chilwell’s talent on television must suffice for Blues supporters, but make no mistake: when the Bridge is full again, our left-back will be just as enjoyable to watch as the other players you set eyes on for the first time.