Ben Chilwell (£5.8m) had started the 2023/24 season playing predominantly as a left winger but was named on the bench for Chelsea’s clash with Bournemouth on Sunday.
Fantasy Premier League (FPL) managers have been quick to react, making Chilwell the most-sold defender for Gameweek 6 with more than 235,000 transfers out.
However, just under 30% of responders in our on-site poll are planning to keep Chilwell, ahead of Chelsea’s promising three-match run:
For those owners still umm-ing and ahh-ing over what to do with Chilwell, we’ll provide an overview of the current situation in this article, with input from Chelsea fans and Fantasy Football Scout contributors Zophar and Gianni Buttice.
CHILWELL’S ADVANCED ROLE
Chilwell has spent much of his career at Chelsea in defence, either as a full-back or wing-back. However, in Gameweeks 1 to 4, he was predominantly used in a left wing role, with the move initially brought about because of the unavailability of other players.
Explaining the reasons behind deploying Chilwell higher up the pitch, Mauricio Pochettino recently said:
“All the coaching staff feel disappointed when you lose players to injury, of course it affects the team, but we need to accept it and adapt. We need to find solutions with different players playing in different positions to try to get the best balance. Ben is a full-back who can help the team in a different position. In four games he has created more chances than any player. In the national team last week Ben played in a similar position.” – Mauricio Pochettino
Despite producing just one assist in his first four matches, Chilwell was involved in plenty of attacking sequences, ranking joint-third among defenders for shots in the box (six) and joint-fourth for chances created (nine). He also had a goal ruled out by VAR against Liverpool on the opening weekend.
Above: Ben Chilwell’s touch heatmap Gameweeks 1-4
WHY CHILWELL WAS BENCHED AT BOURNEMOUTH
Speaking ahead of Chelsea’s clash with Bournemouth on Sunday, Pochettino suggested he wanted a “more offensive” player on the left wing. As a result, Chilwell was replaced by Mykhailo Mudryk (£6.3m) in the first XI.
“I think we are going to play with Mudryk in the position that we normally have been playing Chilwell. We will play with a more offensive player and keep the back four.” – Mauricio Pochettino
A similar-ish situation occurred in Gameweek 4 – when Chelsea found themselves a goal down to Nottingham Forest and wanted more penetration, Noni Madueke (£5.4m) was thrown on for Chilwell just after the hour mark.
His benching on Sunday appeared to be a tactical decision, then, although it is worth noting Sky Sports commentary did mention a “small knock”. However, this hasn’t been verified anywhere since and could simply have been a misunderstanding on their part.
As for Mudryk, he was bright in the first half and created a couple of chances that the Blues couldn’t take. However, he was poor after the break and on 63 minutes, was the first Chelsea player to be taken off in the game for Cole Palmer (£4.9m).
The introduction of the former Manchester City man saw him take up a role on the right wing, with Raheem Sterling (£7.2m) shifting to the left flank.
Following the game, Pochettino demanded more from Mudryk:
“He is improving. He still needs to learn; the Premier League is very fast, the speed of the game is so fast. I think it’s about understanding the game better, try to be more connected sometimes with the team. We need to give the time and to give the tools for him to improve during the season. We need to be tough in the way we are trying. It’s about improving our efficiency in front of the goal.” – Mauricio Pochettino on Mykhailo Mudryk
Chilwell did appear off the bench on 80 minutes when he replaced Levi Colwill (£4.5m) at left-back. Shortly after coming on, he produced a nice cross for Nicolas Jackson (£7.0m) but was unable to make the desired impact and returned zero points after he was booked in injury time.
CHILWELL IN GW6 – WILL HE START?
Mudryk’s performance at Bournemouth could generally be seen as a positive, although his end product is still lacking. If he is given a run of games, then Pochettino must decide what to do with Chilwell and Colwill, who’s been playing left-back throughout his tenure.
For Chilwell, a reversion to a left-back role is a possibility and it’s worth noting he did enter the fray in this position on Sunday. However, he might not be a good fit for Pochettino’s full-back requirements, given the Argentine’s post-match comments at the Vitality:
“One thing I am disappointed is they [the full-backs] try to go forward too much and create confusion to the offensive players and give the opponent chances to get chances.” – Mauricio Pochettino
Chilwell is likely to remain a key part of his manager’s plans, but in the current tactic, it does feel like he is better suited to a more advanced role.
That would leave him competing with Mudryk for a start on the left wing on Sunday, although Chelsea correspondent Zophar feels Palmer and Sterling could be given the nod on the flanks, potentially leaving Chilwell on the bench:
“With the injury to Nkunku, Chilwell has been deployed as a left winger this season but it hasn’t solved Chelsea’s goalscoring woes. Mudryk played that role against Bournemouth but when Palmer was subbed in, Sterling shifted to the left and I think that’s going to be the setup for the next game.
With Pochettino’s comments indicating that he does not want his full-backs to be too adventurous, Chilwell’s starting prospects look slim unless there are futher injuries in the back four.” – Zophar
Gianni echoed some of those thoughts and doesn’t expect to see Chilwell at left-back in Gameweek 6:
“Having spoken to a few Chelsea fans who went to Bournemouth, they were super impressed by Mudryk and thought he was Chelsea’s best attacker in the first half, something I didn’t note when watching on TV.
Did he do enough to keep his starting spot? I’m not so sure. I hate sitting on the fence but this really is a 50/50 call for me. One thing I feel like I can commit to is Chilwell won’t start at left back – expect the back four to be unchanged.” – Gianni Buttice
When Chilwell plays out-of-position on the left wing, he’s a great Fantasy asset, but the threat of rotation now considerably dents his appeal.
The short-term schedule (AVL/ful/bur) offers a bit of encouragement for those who plan to hold, plus the fact the Mudryk experiment didn’t really work on Sunday.
However, Palmer is also in the mix for one of the flank spots and FPL managers might have to get used to this week-to-week uncertainty, at least until Chelsea start performing well and winning matches. Even if Chilwell does start, will he last 60 minutes?
If you do plan to hold, it’s worth keeping in mind an exit route: the Blues sit bottom of the Season Ticker from Gameweeks 9 to 15:
If he does start on the left wing on Sunday, Chilwell’s short-term prospects look good.
Whilst Aston Villa will be tough opponents, it’s worth noting Chelsea will have had six full days to prepare for this fixture, whereas Unai Emery’s troops will be in UEFA Europa Conference League action in Poland on Thursday.
Admittedly, you’d probably prefer Chilwell to be attacking Villa’s left flank, which has looked a bit shaky of late, but he still has plenty going for him, including a share of set plays.
A convincing display would then set him up nicely for Gameweeks 7 and 8, when other defenders like Pervis Estupinan (£5.3m) face tougher fixtures.
However, owners need to be aware there is a risk of a one-point cameo in Gameweek 6, which might be enough for many to sell, especially with Newcastle United’s appealing alternatives available at varying price points.
WHAT FFS READERS HAVE BEEN SAYING ABOUT CHILWELL
“Ideally, I’ll bench this week, then re-evaluate for Fulham and Burnley.” – The Mentaculus
“I won’t have a Chelsea player in my starting XI beyond Gameweek 8, but just as good fixtures handed rare returns for Chelsea defence owners in Gameweek 5, I’m keeping for the good fixtures in Gameweeks 7 and 8, unless Chilwell is benched again in Gameweek 6. I don’t even have a great replacement lined up for him for Gameweek 7 anyway, as my two favourite players play each other and that match will be unpredictable: Alex Moreno and Estupinan.” – Ze_Austin
“I’m not falling for the ‘good fixtures’ trap. Chilwell will be a Newcastle defender come deadline.” – Cruyff’s Eleven
“Sold. I’m done with this situation.” – Yank Revolution