Why replacing Chelsea’s Ben Chilwell in England’s World Cup squad isn’t a major issue

Why England don’t desperately need to replace Ben Chilwell ahead of World Cup

England’s hopes for success at the upcoming FIFA World Cup were plunged into doubt over the summer as they endured a dire run of form in the Nations League tournament. The Three Lions were beaten twice by Hungary, conceding five goals and scoring none, as well as going six matches without a win.

With fans already struggling to find the optimism that so many held ahead of last year’s Euros, things have since gone from bad to worse with a number of injury concerns. Star right-back Reece James looks highly likely to miss out after suffering a knee injury with Chelsea, while Kyle Walker and Kalvin Phillips are also doubts but could potentially feature if Gareth Southgate opts to take a gamble with his squad selection on Thursday. However, England do have one key player that is now confirmed to be sidelined and that is Ben Chilwell. The left-back played second fiddle to Luke Shaw during the Euros, but had a strong case for claiming a starting spot this time round.

Arguably, Chilwell’s absence comes as a greater concern than his Chelsea teammate James as the Three Lions are so much weaker on the left flank. James can be replaced by the likes of Kieran Trippier, Trent Alexander-Arnold or even a curveball option such as Arsenal’s Ben White. While England’s remaining left-back options are yet to reach the level of earning themselves a place on the flight to Qatar.

Names have already been thrown around for Chilwell’s potential replacement but none are particularly eye-catching, prompting concern from supporters over the difficulut decision Southgate will have to make so close to the tournament.

However, finding a replacement for the 25-year-old is significantly less important than it is being made out to be. If Bukayo Saka, Jude Bellingham or John Stones picked up an injury then the concern would be understandable, but in the case of Chilwell’s absence, Southgate doesn’t necessarily have to call up a new left-back to replace him.

The choices for the England boss varied, from the likes of Spurs’ Ryan Sessegnon to Leicester City’s James Justin. The former would be a good attacking option but lacks real defensive ability, and calling him up for a World Cup when he hasn’t come close to call-up would be an eyebrow-raiser to say the least. Leicester City’s Justin would arguably be the Three Lions’ best option, however he only has one cap to his name and is far from an adequate replacement to come in for Shaw if required.

No matter who is called up to the England squad now, Shaw is nailed on to start in the left-back, or indeed left wing-back, role for near enough every match during the tournament. The only time he could perhaps be benched is if England have already progressed to the knockouts before facing Wales in the last group stage fixture, but even then - a perfect replacement already exis. Kieran Trippier has been sensational this season and has a very good chance of making the line-up during the World Cup.

The Newcastle star arguably deserves that right-back position more than Walker or Alexander-Arnold and many expect him to take it, however he can also provide cover for Shaw after previously playing on the left for England. In fact, Chilwell hasn’t even made an appearance for England since last November, with Shaw or Trippier often taking his place - so why do we need to replace a player that hasn’t even been available for the past year?

Southgate doesn’t want to select a defender that isn’t ready to take up such an important role just for the sake of it. If a ready-made, experienced replacement was available then it would make complete sense to bring them in, but we don’t need to call up any of these less convincing options. No offence to these players who are still very talented, but being relied on for Crystal Palace or Brentford is very different to being trusted to succeed in a World Cup final.