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Continuing our loan army evaluation series, we take a look at 19-year-old English centre-back Levi Colwill, who spent the 2021/22 season on loan with Huddersfield Town in the Championship - the first loan spell away from Stamford Bridge for a player who joined at U9 level.
Colwill was an integral member of various successful youth teams at different levels at Cobham, flourishing alongside the likes of Harvey Vale, Charlie Webster and Lewis Hall, and accumulating a total of 47 appearances for Chelsea's academy.
In June 2021, Colwill and Chelsea sought regular first-team minutes for the youngster, linking up with Huddersfield, under the stewardship of Spaniard Carlos Corberán and looking to return to the Premier League for the first time since 2018/19. Colwill was able to play alongside fellow academy graduate Tino Anjorin, who joined in January, as well as 21-year-old Jon Russell, who joined permanently last summer.
The move appeared to be a good match - Colwill was able to start first-team games consistently at the age of 18, and Huddersfield set up with a back three in just under 65 percent of their fixtures last season, allowing Colwill to slot into his favoured left centre-back role.
Colwill featured in 29 of 46 available league games, starting 26 - playing the 10th most minutes in the squad, ticking the box for consistent game time. Huddersfield also had a fine season as a club, finishing third and winning exactly half of the 46 league games played, qualifying for the play-offs.
Colwill played the full 90 in the semi-final second leg win at home to Luton Town, an assured performance with 11 clearances and interceptions combined. The youngster was hugely unlucky to concede an own goal in the final at Wembley, although it is worth remembering both Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori have lost a play-off final and have gone on to have stellar careers to date.
As well as the crucial opportunity to play an extensive number of minutes in an intense and demanding league, Colwill had an excellent season statistically, constantly looking a calm and composed presence in defence and playing with a maturity beyond his years.
Colwill was ranked the squad’s fourth best performer by SofaScore, also ranking in the top three in the team for both accurate long balls per 90 (2.7) and accurate passes per game (38.9), owing to his superb passing range and vision in the mould of both Antonio Rudiger and Thiago Silva.
Defensively, Colwill also excelled with 1.8 tackles per 90 - the second highest in the squad, while also ranking joint-highest for interceptions per 90 with 1.3.
When compared to other centre-backs in the Championship last season, the teenager ranked in the top 15 percent for defensive duel success rate, and in the top eight percent for overall duel success rate, evidencing his physical strength in a demanding league.
The defender was praised by teammate Lewis O’Brien in February, the midfielder tipping Colwill to enjoy a ‘fantastic career’. He said: “When people like that come in, he’s a young player and you question is he going to perform? But he has stepped into the Championship unbelievably well.”
Thomas Tuchel is allegedly keen on taking a closer look at Colwill during the pre-season period, with Chelsea currently undergoing a major defensive revamp - Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen leaving on frees, and the future of captain Cesar Azpilicueta uncertain after Barcelona speculation. While the completion of a deal for Sevilla’s Jules Kounde looks to be a mere formality at this point, the Blues need as much defensive reinforcement they can get with up to 60 games to compete in next season.
Whilst Chelsea have been extensively linked to RB Leipzig’s Josko Gvardiol in recent weeks, my view is that the two defenders can coexist with a range of competitions to compete in next season. Gvardiol is also able to fill in at left-back in a back four formation, a useful trait given Ben Chilwell’s recent return from a long injury period.
Colwill should look no further than the example of Trevoh Chalobah on how to break into the Chelsea squad following a loan spell. After a combined 108 appearances on three separate loans, Chalobah stepped up last season in the right centre-back slot and is now valued as a trusted member of the first-team squad.
Allegedly, over 30 clubs are interested in a loan or permanent move for Colwill this summer, including some big names from Germany. While Colwill may not be ready to be a full-fledged starter next season, he has done enough at Huddersfield to warrant a squad role, potentially picking up at least 20 appearances in all competitions next campaign.