Chelsea’s biggest positive against Manchester United? Trevoh Chalobah.
The 23-year-old may have conceded his first goal under Graham Potter, but he went five matches without conceding before that and made it past 90 minutes in the sixth before seeing Casemiro break the record and snatch a win away from Chelsea, though a draw was fair.
For Chalobah, it provided an eerie sense of I told you so. He was playing in a backline that started with Cesar Azpilicueta at wingback and Marc Cucurella at centre-back. Chalobah, alongside the ever-impressive Thiago Silva, looked the most comfortable player on the pitch.
He has now gone 31 games without losing as a Chelsea starter since the beginning of last season. He’s only ever ended up on the losing side as a substitute once, the other times he’s not won were both penalty shoot-out losses after 0-0 draws throughout 120 minutes. Against the most dangerous attack in the country last season he kept Liverpool out over 240 minutes at Wembley. The sample size is too small to ignore.
Chalobah is far from perfect, he has moments, but alongside Silva he looks as confident as anyone, and with Azpilicueta struggling for form, fitness and pace, the fact Chelsea ever considered allowing him to leave is astonishing. How they couldn’t make room or allowances for someone who has never lost as a starter across 14-months as a first team player beggars belief.
Had Chelsea held on to beat United he was a shoe in for man of the match, he probably could have been anyway. It was maybe his best showing in a Blues shirt, and Pat Nevin was full of praise. Speaking after the match, the former Chelsea winger said to Chelsea TV: There were a lot of fabulous performances, certainly Trevoh Chalobah. That was a grown-up, mature, absolute top-level performance.”
Raphael Varane, a World Cup winner, was on the opposite side to Chalobah yet he showed the ball-playing ability, reading of the game and concentration that has made Varane one of the best defenders in the world across the past decade. It wasn’t long into his Chelsea career that Ian Wright compared him to a Liverpool star.
“You know what he reminded me of, not the same player, not the same stature, but the way Virgil Van Dijk when he played for Celtic,” Wright said in August last year, weeks after his league debut. “People said he’s just taking liberties just because he’s good and not in the same standard [as others].”
Chalobah is not Van Dijk, nor is he on that level and nobody expects him to get to that stage, but the Dutch centre-back has his own incredible record to demonstrate the skill and quality of his performances. The 31-year-old is yet to lose a home league match for the Reds in the four years since joining and has played 70 matches at Anfield during that time.
Chalobah has a way to go to match that record, but Van Dijk’s own unbeaten record as a starter was ended in his first match, a 1-0 loss to Swansea.