Ben Chilwell’s (£5.5m) move from Leicester City to Chelsea could make him an appealing Fantasy Premier League option for the coming season – once he fully recovers from injury.
An attack-minded left-back who has plenty of pace without being blisteringly quick, his move should add greater balance to the Chelsea defence in an area where they have struggled, with Emerson Palmieri (£5.0m) and Fantasy favourite Marcos Alonso (£6.0m) failing to really convince in that position.
While not posing the same menace as Alonso or any other premium option, his attacking output has grown modestly in each of the last three campaigns: from two returns in 2017/18 to six in 2019/20.
With the attacking options available at Chelsea this season in the form of Timo Werner (£9.5m), Christian Pulisic (£8.5m) and Hakim Ziyech (£8.0m), this should increase Chilwell’s potential as an FPL asset for 2020/21.
Chelsea lacked consistency in their defensive performances last season and this has been a key focus area for Frank Lampard’s recruitment drive this summer.
The arrival of Chilwell, as well as an experienced head in Thiago Silva (£5.5m), ought to strengthen Chelsea’s defensive unit and should increase the appeal of the Blues’ backline – although question marks still exist over who lines up between the posts.
Last season Chilwell was part of a Leicester defence that conceded 41 goals, considerably fewer than the 54 that Chelsea let in during the course of the campaign.
Chilwell and his old defensive partners also kept more clean sheets than the Blues managed (13 v nine).
However, Chelsea did concede fewer shots than Leicester, both inside and outside the box, and fewer efforts on target and big chances.
The difference in the number of goals conceded and the clean sheets kept was, as we hinted earlier, partly due to who was between the posts for each club: Kepa Arrizabalaga (£5.0m) had by some distance the worst expected goals prevented total of any Premier League goalkeeper.
While it would be unfair to lay the blame solely at Kepa’s door, the acquisition of a new, more reliable number one or a sudden upturn in form from the Blues’ much-maligned goalkeeper would make investing in Chelsea’s defenders that bit more appealing.
Alonso vs Emerson vs Chilwell
Emerson started 13 games last season, in comparison to 15 for Alonso and 27 for Chilwell.
Emerson delivered no attacking returns in any of his 13 starts and just one clean sheet and his increasingly erratic displays led him to be overlooked for much of the second half of 2019/20.
Alonso faired better in his sporadic showings, registering four goals, four assists and seven clean sheets in his 15 appearances.
When he played, he was a force to be reckoned with: his average points per match of 5.6 was better than any FPL defender in the campaign just gone.
In comparison, Chilwell banked three goals, three assists and nine clean sheets, averaging 4.2 points per match in the process.
The expected goal involvement (xGI) statistics for the three left-backs last season is an interesting point of comparison.
Alonso’s xGI-per-90-minutes figure (0.30) was right up with the best of the FPL defenders, with Chilwell’s some way back (0.15) – and even behind Emerson’s (0.19).
Over the course of the whole of last season and despite the three goals, Chilwell’s expected goals (xG) figure didn’t even reach one (0.98) – contrast that to Alonso (2.62), who played over 900 fewer minutes than his new positional rival.
It’s important to stress that Alonso is a bit of a freak of nature from an attacking viewpoint and Chilwell does, if not posing too much of a goal threat, offer the possibility of assists, having ranked joint-fifth for chances created among FPL defenders.
Clean Sheet potential
During Frank Lampard’s first season in charge at Chelsea they finished tied 11th in the league for clean sheets kept.
This was the major weakness in the Chelsea team last season and left-back was a real problem area, with Emerson fading badly, Alonso not suited to a back four and Cesar Azpilicueta (£6.0m), while deputising ably, not offering much convincing threat going forward when he did fill in.
Chilwell, in theory, should be a decent compromise in being more naturally attack-minded than Azpilicueta but more solid defensively than Alonso.
Having said that, Chilwell’s tackle success rate was the second-worst of Chelsea’s four left-back options and he won a smaller percentage of his aerial duels (only just) than any of them.
Chilwell was at least an improvement on Alonso and Emerson in terms of clearances, blocks and interceptions per 90 minutes, as well as recoveries.
Chelsea’s inability to keep clean sheets has been recognised as an area of weakness and Lampard has resolved some of the concerns that Fantasy managers had by bringing Silva and Chilwell into the Chelsea fold.
Once fit, the England left-back should be more of a natural fit than Azpilicueta on the left-hand side of the Chelsea defence and a defensive improvement on Alonso.
While Chilwell’s goal threat isn’t a patch on the Spaniard’s, he ought to relish the prospect of linking up with a new-look and potentially potent attack.
Whilst the potential is there, it should be noted that a large percentage of the goals Chelsea conceded last season were from goalkeeper errors or a lack of command – something that was not much of a factor at Leicester.
Chilwell and the Chelsea defence in general could, therefore, be frustrating FPL assets to own if nothing is done to rectify the goalkeeping situation.
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