Trevoh Chalobah has again impressed in the Chelsea defence since stepping into the team for the injured Wesley Fofana earlier this month.
There were 38 minutes on the clock when Trevoh Chalobah stepped into the Chelsea defence during the Champions League clash against AC Milan at Stamford Bridge. The pressure on the academy graduate was huge; not only was the match a vital one for the Blues but it was a first-team opportunity Chalobah simply had to take.
The opening weeks of the campaign had been difficult for the centre-back. Chalobah had featured once under Thomas Tuchel and was an unused substitute in Graham Potter’s opening two matches in charge. Something had to change if he was to see out the campaign at Chelsea, especially as interest from clubs around Europe remained strong.
It was Wesley Fofana’s misfortune – the Frenchman suffered a knee injury against Milan – that opened the door for Chalobah. And he has played every minute since. Chelsea haven’t conceded a goal in that time and four out of five matches have been won. A timely reminder has been sent by Chalobah to his doubters.
Chelsea’s latest shutout came against Brentford last night. In the absence of Thiago Silva, Chalobah was moved into the middle of the back three and that meant a battle against the aerially dominant Ivan Toney, who did force goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga into three good stops during the contest.
It wasn’t an easy night for Chelsea. That was expected. The important thing was the Blues came through difficult moments in the match – and that is something Chalobah says has been instilled into the players by Potter since he arrived last month to replace Thomas Tuchel.
“It’s the mentality the manager has brought in: suffering. Playing teams like this, there are going to be a lot of long balls, we are going to have to run for each other, work for each other. That’s the most important thing, suffering,” Chalobah explained.
“In a team like Chelsea, everyone expects us to play a lot of serious football. But we have to show the other side of the game and that’s suffering. That’s what teams like Brentford and a lot of the other ‘smaller’ teams do. And that’s what we need to bring into our team too.”
In the six games Chalobah has been involved in this season, just one goal has been conceded. Admittedly part of the reason for that is the form of Kepa, who has been imperious since being handed the number one spot by Potter. Yet achieving clean sheets is always a collective effort and something the Chelsea are focused on.
“We are looking at it as a goal for us defenders and as a team,” said Chalobah. “If we keep doing the clean sheets, we know that the chances will be created and we will win more games. The most important things for us right now are the clean sheets.”
On Saturday, that clean sheet record will be put to the test as Chelsea take on Manchester United at Stamford Bridge. Whether Cristiano Ronaldo will be involved remains to be seen but Chalobah says going up against the Portuguese star again would be a “dream come true”.
And what about another dream: the World Cup? Chalobah’s form in recent weeks has seemingly gone under the radar outside of Chelsea. But with Reece James in a fight to be fit for next month’s tournament and Kyle Walker also battling to overcome an injury, Gareth Southgate’s options at right centre-back have become a little more sparse.
“It’s always a kid’s dream to be called up but my focus is to give my all for the club and then see what happens,” Chalobah said. “For me, the first thing was to play for Chelsea and get myself back in the team, and I’m doing that now. That’s the most important thing for me.
“There are a lot of games coming up and I want to play in every single game and we will see the team win. For me, it’s just club football for me now. I never focus on anything else. If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be but Chelsea is my main priority at the moment.”
But if the England call did come? “Yeah, if it comes, I’m ready for what’s ahead.”