29th July 2016. By Edward Stratmann.
Having risen through the ranks of Leicester City's academy, it's great news for the club that one of their prized assets, Ben Chilwell, looks set to stay with the Premier League champions.
The 19-year-old's been heavily monitored by Liverpool, who had their £7 million bid for him rejected last month, but now appears ready to sign a new five-year contract with the Foxes. "He is very close [to signing a new deal] and he will stay with us," Claudio Ranieri told the Leicester Mercury.
"He is our future. We are building and looking for good, talented young players. Ben is one of our players and we believe in him."
Having previously played under David Wagner, a former colleague of Jurgen Klopp who plays a similarly dynamic brand of football, when he was on loan at Huddersfield Town, it's understandable why Liverpool identified Chilwell as one of their key transfer targets.
Despite Chilwell being Christian Fuch's able deputy at present, being able to keep hold of him is a massive boost for Leicester, now and in the future. While he's already an accomplished player in his own right, the England U21's scope for improvement is still massive, and working under the masterful Ranieri should see Leicester's academy player of the year in 2014/15 continue his remarkable upward trajectory.
Chilwell's encouraging start to preseason has aptly illustrated just how nicely he's coming along, which should translate into far more game time for him as the Foxes defend their title and venture into the Champions League next season.
In Leicester's most recent friendly with Brendan Rodgers' Celtic, he put in a particularly promising performance, in a match where he duly showed why he's such a highly rated prospect.
Up against his England U21 teammate and fellow 19-year-old, Patrick Roberts, he did an excellent job limiting the Manchester City loanee's impact. He tracked him meticulously, never giving him an easy touch, plus he put in some timely challenges to constantly stop his progress. Chilwell's ability to make quick, well calculated decisions when to press his man or hold his position once again ensured he was rarely beaten.
"I thought I did well. I obviously know Pat Roberts from England and he's the same age as me, so we both know what kind of players we are," Chilwell told Leicester's official website.
"It was always going to be interesting coming up against each other to see who'd do what. It was a good test to come up against different wingers."
The athletic defender also made great use of his physical qualities and his footballing intelligence in order to help his teammates. By virtue of being able to read the play so expertly, Chilwell regularly identified any danger and had no hesitation in using his wicked covering speed to jet across and help his fellow defenders with a marking assignment.
A prime example of this arrived in the eighth minute, where upon noticing Celtic breaking down Leicester's right side, he rapidly blazed across from his left-back location to snuff out the danger. This sort of selflessness and team-first mentality would've certainly impressed his manager to no end.
Given clear instructions to get forward at every available opportunity, Chilwell used his speed, tidy distribution skills and dribbling ability to contribute heavily in attack. Marc Albrighton and Danny Drinkwater, Leicester's left winger and left central midfielder, deserved plenty of credit for their roles in providing Chilwell with a terrific platform to attack, however.
By regularly opting to motor infield, Albrighton manufactured the space for Chilwell to surge into, while Drinkwater would cleverly shuttle across and cover the space in behind the young sensation to ensure coverage was present in case of a turnover.
Moreover, in cases when the Foxes had the ball over on the right hand side of the pitch, they would persistently push all their players across to that side of the pitch, which forced their opponents to follow, and then fire long diagonals into Chilwell, who had oceans of unoccupied space in front of him to utilise. This tactic was well thought out and gave Leicester another attacking dimension to unsettle the Scottish champions through.
As one of only three Leicester players to complete the 90 minutes, along with Drinkwater and Daniel Amartey, this served as yet another vital hit out for the youngster. "To play 90 minutes is good for my fitness and for my confidence as well," Chilwell said.
"Playing with different players in pre season is vital because when you come to play with them throughout the season, you're used to it already. It's good for the gaffer and the players to get used to trying different systems throughout pre season."
With Leicester's first competitive match of the season coming up in little over a week, the Community Shield against Manchester United, Chilwell will be desperate to keep up his strong form and nail down a starting berth for the colossal clash.
Although Fuchs is still Ranieri's number one at left-back, expect the immensely gifted Chilwell to make the spot his own in the near future. Either way, seeing as Leicester will be competing on so many fronts this campaign, expect him to accrue plenty of experience and playing time throughout the 2016/17 crusade.
Leicester signing him to a new deal is undoubtedly their gain and Liverpool's loss.
Ben Chilwell An Emerging Talent at Leicester City
29th July 2016. By Edward Stratmann.