Ben Chilwell is repaying Claude Puel's faith from last season
Under Gareth Southgate's management, a plethora of young English talent is breaking into the national team. Among the latest is Ben Chilwell. The left-back was drafted into the England squad in September to cover for injuries to regular full-backs Danny Rose and Luke Shaw. He debuted in the 1-0 win over Switzerland at the King Power Stadium. A further four caps have followed for the 21-year-old over the last two months, including his latest in the crucial 2-1 UEFA Nations League victory over Croatia on Sunday. He played a crucial role in defeating the recent World Cup runners-up by being the provider for Harry Kane’s 85th-minute winner.
Last season was somewhat of a breakthrough for Chilwell. Having made his way through Leicester City's youth set-up, followed by a few seasons playing back up to title-winner Christian Fuchs, he became established as the first choice left-back under manager Claude Puel.
Both Leicester and Chilwell's performance towards the 2017/18 campaign's latter stages could be described as inconsistent. Some fans and pundits called for the experienced Fuchs to be drafted back into the starting eleven at the youngster's expense. However, Puel was persistent in selecting the youth product, giving him a total of 24 Premier League games.
The invaluable experience of featuring consistently last season has done wonders for Chilwell. Since then, he has gone up another level. Having played every minute so far this league campaign, the Milton Keynes-born defender is currently one of Leicester's outstanding players. He epitomises the modern full-back, providing another option in the attacking third, as well as the needed defensive solidity.
Puel deserves huge credit for Chilwell’s development over the last 12 months. It would've been easy for the Frenchman to bow to the demands and turn to experience during last season. Putting his faith in youth is now reaping its rewards.
If Chilwell hadn’t been able to secure Leicester's left-back spot last campaign, he wouldn't be in the position of making a strong challenge for the same role in Southgate's starting eleven. Puel's trust has strengthened England's national team.
Last month, Chilwell signed a new six-year contract with the Foxes. That demonstrates not only his impact on the side but also what a valuable player he is becoming. On announcing the deal, Puel hinted there is more to come from the academy graduate, telling the club's official website:
It’s great news for the club. Ben (Chilwell) is an exciting young player with huge potential who is already learning and improving by playing regular Premier League football. If he continues to work hard he will become a valuable player for us and I hope for the England team.
While Chilwell is only one example of a young player breaking his way into the Premier League and performing on the international stage, his pathway should serve as a reminder to both managers and fans. Showing a little patience could be the difference between a youngster making it at the top level. After all, short-term pain will often lead to long-term gain.