At the start of the 2020/21 PL season, new Chelsea left back Ben Chilwell has deservedly received a lot of plaudits after a very strong start to his Chelsea career. The Englishman has bagged a goal and three assists in only five games for the Blues, and has really lived up to the large price tag he conducted in the summer. But should the 23 year olds form drop, Chelsea should look no further than academy left back Ian Maatsen to fill the void.
The 18 year old is on loan at Charlton Athletic this season, following in the same footsteps as fellow academy graduate Connor Gallagher did last year. Maatsen was at PSV Eindhoven before switching to Chelsea in 2019, but started his youth career at Feyenoord before he was released for being too small. Despite his size, Maatsen is a versatile player, able to play as left back, centre back and in midfield. He is, like Chilwell, a left footed typical modern fullback, getting forward to great effect. Maatsen is an excellent defender. A tough tackler, something unusual for someone of his size, and also is blessed with excellent pace, which he uses to superb effect in both attack and defence. Still a very raw player, he can give away cheap fouls due to his eagerness to get stuck into a tackle, but that is something that can be improved through time and good coaching.
Maatsen made his professional debut in League One for Charlton Athletic last week in a 1-0 away win vs Blackpool. Coming on as a halftime substitute, Maatsen impressed defensively and attacking wise, showing maturity to play to such a high level on his professional debut. The 18 year old made 6 interceptions, which demonstrates his excellent game reading ability, typical of a Dutchman. He also laid on 2 key passes, which is a pass which leads to a shot, and completed 100% of his crosses, albeit all one of them.
The Chelsea academy production line seemingly never stops, and Maatsen has proved himself to be a very promising talent and could push Chilwell for the left back spot soon in the future. It would take a lot for Maatsen to displace Chilwell, but the Dutchman’s physical and technical abilities as well as his tactical versatility and game reading make him a huge talent for the future.