Leicester City have become an unlikely source of optimism for the English national team over the last couple of years. Jamie Vardy was, up until his recent international retirement, a willing, viable Plan B to Harry Kane, while ‘Slabhead’ Harry Maguire has become something of a cult figure at the back for the Three Lions. England’s search for a playmaker led them to James Maddison’s doorstep, while Demarai Gray was very unlucky to be struck down by injury just when it looked like he may get a chance in the side as well. Amidst all of these stories, one of Leicester’s very own has quietly made a name for himself in the England set-up and is probably the second-choice left-back now behind Luke Shaw. I am, of course, talking about Ben Chilwell.
The Milton Keynes-born youngster has made the left-back spot his own for the Foxes, ousting one of the heroes of the 2015/16 title-winning season in Christian Fuchs. He has all the qualities of a modern full-back: he is fast, aggressive and delivers a really good cross, but he marries all of these with very competent defensive skills as well. Chilwell is rarely beaten in a one-on-one duel, and while he may be slightly suspect positionally, there is enough time for him to iron out these kinks as he progresses on and off the pitch. I will now analyse the 21-year old’s game in a bit more detail.
As stated above, Chilwell is extremely comfortable defensively, and one of his strengths is in defending one-on-one. He gets into good positions and his body shape makes it difficult for the attacker to dribble past him. This was quite prominent during the UEFA Nations League game against Spain, where Jonny Castro and Iago Aspas both struggled to make headway against Chilwell.
The statistics show that Chilwell has averaged 1.4 tackles, 0.9 interceptions and 3.2 clearances per game in the Premier League this season. This demonstrates his style of play; Chilwell prefers to stay in position rather than rush out to make a tackle, while the high number of clearances is partly attributable to his aerial ability, as the left-back often tucks in and defends the box from crosses for Leicester. As stated above, he does get caught out of position at times, but boasts good pace to be able to recover, and usually times his tackles perfectly to avoid giving away fouls, having only conceded 0.6 fouls per game so far in the league.
Like any other modern full-back, Chilwell’s attacking qualities are the backbone of his game. He usually maintains his position on the left flank, attempting to overlap his winger and provide width for Leicester’s attacks. Chilwell is yet to record an assist this season; nevertheless, the underlying numbers are promising, as the full-back has made 1.1 key passes per game, as well as 3.7 dribbles, with a 54% success rate. His successful passing rate is a little low at 75.9%, but that reflects the fact that he is quite consistently attempting to cross or find a teammate in a promising position; he ranks ninth in the league for crosses attempted.
Chilwell often serves as the ‘out-ball’ for Leicester, and his touch maps from games against Newcastle and Arsenal demonstrate this.
He also constantly looks to take advantage of any space that may open up, and his pace means that he can manage to outrun most opponents.
Finally, as stated above, the full-back attempts almost four dribbles per game, succeeding with around half of these. While he probably needs to improve his success rate, the fact that he attempts so many every game shows how often he finds himself in one-on-one situations offensively; a product of his positioning and attacking intent.
Ben Chilwell has had an excellent season so far, standing out at Leicester as well as in an England shirt. The 21-year old left-back has some notable strengths, such as his pace, stamina and ability to get forward consistently, but also needs to work on his positioning and dribbling. Nevertheless, the youngster has time on his side and has all the ingredients to become a part of a top side if he keeps on showing the kind of form that he has so far this season.