Look Chelsea fans; Levi Colwill’s passes are the future of defending
Chelsea fans could be forgiven all is doom and gloom at the moment, as their side lurch from one disaster to the next in a season that’s plummeting to historical depths – but the progress of Levi Colwill suggests the future at Stamford Bridge might be brighter.
While those rubbernecking at Chelsea will have identified a lack of goals as the main problem, the defence has largely escaped attention.
Despite conceding just 33 Premier League goals – only Arsenal, Manchester City and Newcastle have allowed less – there are question marks over many of the centre-backs at the Bridge.
Kalidou Koulibaly has disappointed since his big-money move from Napoli. Benoit Badiashile has impressed, but remains as raw as a French steak. Thiago Silva is nearing pension age.
Luckily, Colwill should become a fixture in the Chelsea backline until the 2030s. Strong, intelligent and pacier than Road Runner shot out of a canon, the 20-year-old has shone during his loan spell at Brighton.
And the cultured defender is a stalwart at international level, becoming at home at under-21 level for England and leaving jaws permanently dislocated with some of his passing.
During the imperious victory over France last month, Colwill demonstrated that his passing range is more accurate than GPS with a delightful long-range ping that dissected the French defence like a scientist dissecting a helpless frog.
As he lofted a pass directly into the path of Cameron Archer, who failed to deliver the goal or assist that Colwill’s ingenuity deserved, it was possible to see why the Chelsea defender is considered the future of defending.
By marrying old-fashioned physicality with modern technique, Coiwill is every inch the perfect defensive specimen.
Levi Colwill partnering John Stones is going to be an immense ball-playing CB partnership pic.twitter.com/VeQU2MFdXt
— Premier League Panel (@PremLeaguePanel) March 25, 2023
While Colwill is in high demand at club level – both Liverpool and Manchester City are monitoring Colwill’s situation with interest – it appears inevitable that the centre-back will also be part of England’s plans before too long.
With questions over Harry Maguire continuing to linger, Leigh Bromby, sporting director of Championship side Huddersfield Town where Colwill spent last season on loan, is in no doubt the defender will merit full international honours.
“Did we expect him to hit the levels he did? There was a real confidence because we told the coaches you’ll either be the coaches that played a future England international or the ones when he’s telling his story to the media that didn’t play him,” Bromby told The Athletic last November.
“We were pretty confident that he’s going to be a top player. There aren’t many left-footed centre-backs. He’s got a great chance. I think he’s got a big future ahead.”
As well as his technical ability, Bromby gushed about the elite mentality he believes will take Colwill far.
“He came across for his age exceptionally well,” the former Sheffield United defender said. “We’ve got a psychologist here who likened him to an Olympic athlete.
“He was well-rounded, coming here to play games, focused on his football. Sometimes with younger players, they don’t have the focus that he had.
“In developing himself, he wanted to embrace everything here. Anything you spoke to him about — ‘It’s going to be physical’; ‘You’re going to have to win your headers’ — he was so open to improving in those areas and showing that he could deal with the physicality of the Championship and be the best on the ball.
“That was really obvious in the first few meetings with him. Not that he was expecting to play, he was going to maximise everything he could do to get in the team and he was very respectful with that.
“There was no chip on his shoulder thinking he should play or ‘I’m better than him’. Every player we’ve had from Chelsea has been an exceptional human being. He tops that list.”
With Colwill likely to return to Chelsea next season, the club’s supporters should be heartened by the thought that next season should be substantially better than this one.
By Michael Lee