Chilwell has broken into the Leicester first-team in recent months having had to make do with a peripheral role for a couple of seasons
Following England‘s very encouraging World Cup performance, Gareth Southgate has wasted little time in evolving the Three Lions further. The 3-4-2-1 that worked so well in Russia has been parked for the time being, in favour of a vertical 4-3-3 which accommodates Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling.
The change in system has brought a change in personnel at full-back, too. Kyle Walker has been shifted from his makeshift role at centre-half to his preferred position of right-back, while Ashley Young – another makeshift defender who performed admirably in the summer – has been dislodged by Ben Chilwell, who has gone from strength to strength with Leicester this year.
The 21-year-old has been on the radar for many clubs since being integrated into the Leicester first-team set-up by Claudio Ranieri during the famous title-winning season but has only become a regular fixture in the Foxes’ starting line-up under Claude Puel, who has brought a number of English starlets to the fore during his tenure at the King Power Stadium.
After catching the eye when afforded a handful of opportunities by Ranieri, Chilwell was subject of heavy interest from Liverpool in the summer of 2016 but a move never materialised due to the Reds’ reluctance to meet Leicester’s £10m asking price – a paltry fee in retrospect.
A typical modern left-back, Chilwell’s attacking verve provides Leicester with another dimension to their already impressive forwardline – he has executed 1.2 key passes and completed 1.6 dribbles per game this season.
His marauding nature doesn’t make way for defensive steel, though – the Milton Keynes-born star has made 3.1 clearances per game this season, along with one tackle and one interception on average.
“At 21 he can continue to improve,” Puel said. “Perhaps to find clinical crosses, for example, and to bring support to his team-mates in offensive play, but he has all the ability. He has fantastic pace, endurance, good engine, to repeat efforts, he is comfortable on the ball, without panic.
Chilwell’s recent development has drawn a wealth of admirers and has led him to seemingly nail down the left-back spot for England – the pinnacle of his burgeoning national career surely coming in the Three Lions’ momentous 3-2 win away at Spain – but he knows more than anyone that he can’t afford to rest on his laurels.
“You feel more confident but I still go into games feeling like I need to prove myself,” Chilwell said.
“I actually had a chat with the manager [Puel] a week and a half ago and he said the same thing to me, that I have started the season well and had three or four good games but come the end of the season those games will mean nothing.
“It is how you play for the rest of the season, for 38 games. If you want to be a top player you have to play well for the whole season and then ten more seasons, not just three or four games.”