Ben Chilwell is one of those adjusting to a new role since Thomas Tuchel’s arrival, and he has been speaking about the positional nuances of playing left wing-back and the strong competition for places at Chelsea.
With Tuchel preferring a 3-4-2-1 formation, the left-back slot Chilwell had excelled in earlier in the season is now redundant. The new shape suits Marcos Alonso’s game, too, and that increased competition has meant Chilwell has been restricted to seven appearances of the 14 unbeaten under Tuchel.
He has, however, completed the full 90 in three of our past four league games, and shone on Sunday in the FA Cup, playing a major hand in both goals.
‘My whole career I’ve been more used to playing left-back than left wing-back, but the formation we are playing suits a lot of players and it’s working very well for us at the moment,’ acknowledged the 24-year-old.
‘If I want to play, then I have to adapt my game to be able to play left wing-back as well as left-back. I’m working hard in training, and coming into games I’m asking a lot of questions where I can be positionally to improve so I can get more opportunities to play in that role.
‘When you’re playing wing-back you’re already a lot higher up the pitch, whereas at left-back you’re running on to things and using your speed to get up and down the pitch, which is my strength.
‘At left wing-back you’re predominantly in the attacking third, which I’ve had to adapt to,’ added Chilwell.
‘Against Sheffield United I got a dubious goal and an assist so on the attacking side of things I showed I can play there as well as left-back.
‘On the other side of things, when you’ve got two or three good players in each position that have different strengths it makes everyone train harder. That creates a good buzz around the place.’
One of the positives of our new wing-back set-up for Chilwell is it is similar to the one Gareth Southgate has recently utilised for his England team, so he is understandably hopeful this extra experience of playing there will stand him in good stead going into this summer’s European Championships. It is a situation he has discussed with Reece James, a regular at right wing-back in the past two months.
It is England that has Chilwell’s attention for the next 10 days, but then an exciting conclusion to the club campaign beckons. As well as securing a top-four berth, we are targeting silverware in the shape of the FA Cup and the Champions League.
‘That’s 100 per cent possible,’ stresses Chilwell.
‘We’re in both competitions, we’re playing very well at the moment and we’re confident. It’s not something we’re talking about, at the moment we’re taking it week by week, and the manager has made it clear that is what we need to do.
‘We need to keep improving every week in training and going into every match with the same mindset we have been having at the moment.’