Why Levi Colwill is Chelsea's next big thing
This summer has seen a mass exodus of Chelsea academy graduates from the club.
Valentino Livramento, Lewis Bate, Dynel Simeu and Myles Peart-Harris have all left the club on permanent deals, as have Marc Guehi, Fikayo Tomori and Tammy Abraham, while the likes of Faustino Anjorin and Armando Broja have departed on loan moves.
Another player who has gone out on loan this season is centre-back Levi Colwill. The 18-year-old has joined Huddersfield Town on loan for the 2021/22 season, in a move similar to the one the aforementioned Tomori made to Derby County in 2018/19.
However, Tomori has left the club permanently, as has fellow centre-half Marc Guehi, and Chelsea have been happy to let the pair leave, in part thanks to the emergence of Colwill.
Xavier Mbuyamba is also a young defender in the academy, signed from Barcelona, and has begun training with the first-team which is a sign of how highly the Blues rate him. However, Colwill is arguably the player Chelsea hold in highest regard in the academy.
Recently called up to the England U21 squad, having been promoted from the U18s, Colwill has hit the ground running for Huddersfield in the Championship, and has well and truly taken to senior football like a duck to water. He's played every minute of the Terriers' league campaign so far, helping them pick up a crucial victory over Sheffield United by scoring a 94th minute winner in front of the travelling away fans.
Not only that, but he's been assured when defending, and has certainly deserved the recognition from the England set-up.
Why is Colwill rated so highly?
First of all, Colwill is simply outstanding. Watching even a highlight reel shows the talent he has, and the fact he stands out playing senior football at 18 testifies to this.
A left-footed centre-back, Colwill's body positioning is excellent on the ball, and by playing on the left of a centre-back pairing, he opens the pitch up. Many teams use two, or even three, right-footed centre-backs, and this sometimes limits the passing lanes and possibilities for playing out the back.
Colwill's strong left-foot negates that issue, and it allows Huddersfield to build through the thirds easily on the left-hand side of the pitch. His vision is truly exceptional for a defender, and he frequently breaks the lines with his passes. Of course, these risky passes don't always come off, but his immense technical prowess means he rarely gives the ball away.
In Huddersfield's 4-0 win over Reading, Colwill completed a huge seven long balls, with his switch of play crucial to the first goal. A simple five-yard pass to a fellow defender is an option that many centre-backs take, look at Caglar Soyuncu and Daniel Amartey against West Ham, but Colwill often looks beyond the easy option, and it helps Huddersfield progress up the pitch far quicker.
Of course, this doesn't always work, hence his 78.6% pass accuracy, but he'll improve with experience.
Colwill's ability on the ball is perhaps best shown by his tally of 1.2 dribbles per 90. Coming from centre-back that is almost unheard of, and ranks him third of all centre-backs in the division.
It's that drive from the backline that attracts attention to Colwill, and he often has the presence of mind to wait until the last moment, after sucking two or three players towards him, before releasing a pass which creates a pocket of space for his teammates.
This is something he regularly did for Chelsea's youth teams, and it's something he's continued with almost effortless ease in the Championship.
With 3.0 tackles and interceptions per 90, Colwill is a fairly front-footed defender, meaning he quite often opts to make a challenge rather than stall his opponent. This works most of the time, but as mentioned earlier, his defensive nous will only get better with age, and the few times he gets caught out of position will soon be rectified.
Speaking to Goal recently, Colwill revealed how close friend Jamal Musiala, and the success he has had, is pushing him to achieve his goals. He said: "We played for the same Sunday team [City Central FC], and we went up together for our Chelsea trial. We have just done everything together.
"We keep in touch still now and he is a good mate. It is amazing to see what he has achieved so far. It gives me goosebumps every time because I have been through everything he has been through, all that grind.
"To see what he has done now is inspiring and it shows me what is possible. If I keep working hard, I know I can achieve what he's done."
Colwill follows a fairly long line of Chelsea loanees to end up at Huddersfield, but he might well be the best of the lot. His central defensive partner Naby Sarr recently revealed in a press conference that "Colwill looks like he's been playing professionally for 10 years already, and he's only 18.
"He has everything to play for, he'll be a big player."
With 3.0 aerial wins per 90, Colwill ranks second in the Huddersfield squad, which shows he's more than prepared to do the dirty work in addition to his aesthetically-pleasing passes.
To fit seamlessly into a competitive senior team is no mean feat, but Colwill is proving week-in, week-out, why he is viewed as the next big thing to come out of Cobham, and why Chelsea were happy to let both Tomori and Guehi go.
He's still raw, of course, but the early signs are that Colwill is a special, special talent.
You can see in Levi Colwill clips the importance of having a left foot when playing LCB. It’s hard not to over hype him 🤩 pic.twitter.com/LUASiSAnid— BLUE🥶 (@RJamesSZN) September 3, 2021
Will he fit in at Chelsea?
Not yet, no. Still just 18, Colwill won't be trusted just yet, but Thomas Tuchel certainly holds him in high regard. With Jules Kounde on Chelsea's radar, added to the talent already available at centre-back, it may be a few years before Colwill is handed a starting berth at the club.
Exciting times lie ahead for an emerging talent who'll become a household name before too long.