Levi Colwill’s future for Chelsea and England somehow rests in the hands of Marc Cucurella

Will Ford
Levi Colwill and Marc Cucurella have both played at left-back for Chelsea this season.

We’re yet to see the Levi Colwill of Brighton at Chelsea, and we can’t imagine the defender is hugely confident for the future given his reliance upon Marc Cucurella…

“For sure, he is going to play,” Mauricio Pochettino said back in August, after Colwill signed his new six-year deal at Stamford Bridge. It was a cause for the defender’s concern in the summer, particularly with Euro 2024 coming, that he would return to Chelsea from his Brighton loan and sit on the bench.

He will now believe his decision has been justified having started every Premier League game before injury kept him out of the 4-4 draw with Manchester City, earning his first England cap in the 1-0 win over Australia in October.

But he’s yet to be truly tested in his preferred role at Chelsea, by the in-house competition that could put his place in Gareth Southgate’s squad for Germany under threat and even see him follow the well-trodden path of the many talented Cobham graduates whose lack of a ‘book value’ has been coveted far more than their actual talent in recent seasons.

Marc Guehi, Fikayo Tomori, Tammy Abraham, Billy Gilmour, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Ethan Ampadu, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Mason Mount have all left the club in the last three seasons. Trevoh Chalobah is sure to follow them, and if any further evidence was required of Chelsea’s obsession with earning pure profit from academy players, reports suggest they would still consider offers for Conor Gallagher, who’s been their best player and captain for most of the season. Colwill is by no means untouchable, and centre-back competition is fierce at Chelsea.

Assuming Thiago Silva will leave at the end of this campaign – though frankly, who knows with that extraordinary specimen? – Pochettino will still have Colwill, Benoit Badiashile, Axel Disasi and Wesley Fofana as options, and the Chelsea boss confirmed at the start of the season that Badiashile would be Colwill’s direct rival for a spot in the team.

“[He has] the possibility to play because Benoit [Badiashile] is injured. He [Colwill] is left [footed] and will compete with Benoit.”

Colwill was fortunate that his return to Chelsea coincided with an injury to Badiashile, who was a rose amid thorns having joined the club in January. The Blues lost 16 Premier League games in 2022/23 but just two of the ten games Badiashile started, in which they kept five clean sheets. He’s a very good defender, and arguably impressed more than Colwill has.

The Englishman has now started just three fewer Premier League games for Chelsea than he did for Brighton, and yet the highlights reel of rasping crossfield balls, composure in possession, runs through midfield and dominant defending from last season would be five times as long. Whether because of a period of adaptation from Roberto De Zerbi to Pochettino, increased pressure or being played out of position, Colwill is yet to come close to the form that had Liverpool circling him as their Virgil van Dijk replacement in the summer.

Levi Colwill in action for England against Australia.
Levi Colwill in action for England against Australia.

His versatility has certainly aided him in the short-term. He’s started five games at left-back for Chelsea and played there for England, but neither Pochettino nor Southgate will see him as an ideal solution for that role, and if Colwill is to cement his place for club and country it will surely be as the left-sided centre-back in a back four, where he so impressed for Brighton.

Pleased though he no doubt is having played so much for his boyhood club this term, Colwill will be desperate for a run of games in his favoured position, in which he’s played just twice for Chelsea thus far, to be given the chance to show Southgate that he has what it takes to oust Harry Maguire and become John Stones’ centre-back partner for the European Championships.

His opportunity to shine at centre-back for Chelsea has been afforded to him by an unlikely hero.

Colwill owes his recent centre-back starts – against Arsenal and Brentford – to Marc Cucurella. The Spaniard, much-maligned in his debut season, has returned to some sort of form, starting five of Chelsea’s last six Premier League games, replacing Colwill at left-back in the other.

With Ben Chilwell out injured and seemingly not particularly fancied by Pochettino in any case, it’s either Colwill or Cucurella at left-back, and Colwill – with his future for Chelsea and England in mind – will hope it’s not him.

If Colwill is playing at left-back there’s every chance of Badiashile coming into the team and making the left centre-back spot his own, and come next season there will be a shiny new, very expensive left-back on the scene, with Colwill out in the cold as no more than a very useful reserve.

Colwill’s had plenty of game time at Chelsea, but of the wrong sort, with the granting of the right stuff dependent on Cucurella, a man few would rely upon.