From Championship struggles to marking Neymar, the remarkable breakthrough of Cobham graduate Trevoh Chalobah 

At this point, it is of common knowledge that Chelsea is a top-tier youth team producer; amongst the most recent revelations from Cobham for the 2021/22 season, there was the eye-catching talent of 22-year-old Trevoh Chalobah. 

For instance, on his debut for the Blues, he started his first-team journey by winning the UEFA Super Cup.

Since then, the former inexperienced, on-loan player has become a fundamental part of the team. Chalobah has repeatedly shown how much he cares about the Blues’ shirt. And how much he wants to make it at the club. And, above everything, he has proved why he deserves to remain in Tuchel’s plans. 

Chalobah's Chelsea debut in the UEFA Super Cup – Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC 
Trevoh Chalobah’s Chelsea debut in the UEFA Super Cup – Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC 

The Academy upbringing 

“Made in Cobham”. It is only fair that we start from the beginning. Trevoh Chalobah is the younger brother of Nathaniel Chalobah, with whom he first arrived at the Cobham at eight years old. 

His brother Nathaniel is a well-known figure amongst Chelsea fans. Noticeably, he was part of Antonio Conte’s Premier League-winning squad in the 2016/17 season. 

Following the steps of his older brother, Chalobah first signed for Chelsea’s Under-9 category. Since a young age, he has been a versatile player. He mostly played as a centre-back at Cobham. In some occasions, though, he also performed as a right-back and a defensive midfielder.

The long-lasting friendship of Trevoh Chalobah and Mason Mount: the duo after winning the FA Youth Cup — Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC
The long-lasting friendship of Trevoh Chalobah and Mason Mount: the duo after winning the FA Youth Cup — Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC

In the pathway to the FA Youth Cup title in the 2015/16 season, Chalobah was a starter in every game. Similarly, he also collected starts in the U-19 group that achieved the UEFA Youth League title.

Besides taking part in the successful Academy sides, from 2017/18, Trevoh was included in the senior team as a substitute. According to the defender, one of the most memorable occasions in which he was part of the squad was the FA Cup title win against Manchester United in 2018.

Chalobah’s loan trajectory in England

Previous loan experiences with different players have repeatedly shown how going abroad – and out of one’s comfort zone – is a massive boost to players’ sense of responsibility and commitment. With Chalobah, it was no different from that. 

Before making it at Chelsea as an Academy graduate, Chalobah developed his skills in three different clubs while on loan. 

In his first loan move in 2018, the defender transferred to the Championship side Ipswich Town. Not surprisingly, that was a tremendous shock considering what he was used to during his time in West London. That is – highly developed training ground infrastructures, multiple trophies per season, as well as the familiar players and staff who watched him grow up. 

“I’m disappointed with the way the results have gone for the team. But for me, it’s been a big learning curve”, Chalobah stated in an interview with Ipswich Town.

He added, “I have played a lot of games, maybe more than I expected. Everything that has happened here this season has been new to me”. At Ipswich, he mostly played as a defensive midfielder.

Chalobah celebrating his first-ever senior goal while on loan for Ipswich Town — Photo by Steve Waller
Chalobah celebrating his first-ever senior goal while on loan for Ipswich Town — Photo by Steve Waller

After a season with the Tractor Boys – who ended up getting relegated to League One, Huddersfield Town announced Trevoh as their new number six. For another season, he kept hustling in the Championship.

During his time at the Terriers, Chalobah did not have a properly defined position. That way, he could play at the heart of defence as well as in a single pivot role.

Ligue 1 days

His success at contributing to Town remaining at the Championship led the (then) recently promoted French team Lorient to demonstrate an interest in the defender. Similar to what happened at Huddersfield Town, he got to perform in different roles under the management of Christophe Pélissier.

At this time, his versatility was already an extremely eye-catching trait. His positional rotation in France allowed him to develop an excellent positional awareness, evidenced by his ability to track runners and stretch to win loose balls. 

Notably, he was able to help Lorient to survive in Ligue 1. An honourable mention of his efforts includes taking part in an impressive 3-2 Lorient win against Paris Saint Germain. 

Trevoh Chalobah marking Brazilian great Neymar in Lorient’s victory against PSG — Photo by David Vincent/AP
Trevoh Chalobah marking Brazilian great Neymar in Lorient’s victory against PSG — Photo by David Vincent/AP

While still in France, when asked about returning to Chelsea, Chalobah stated: “I just think there’s no rush to where I want to get to”. In the summer of 2021, his hard work paid off during the Blues’ pre-season. Tuchel assured him he was not going anywhere.

Tactical Role Analysis 

As aforementioned, since his developing years, Chalobah has had a very versatile style of play. His suitability as a defensive midfielder gives him characteristics that fit like a glove on Tuchel’s system.  

Notably, he is comfortable in monopolising possession, completing long-range passes, as well as driving the ball forward when his wingback partner (either Reece James or Cesar Azpillicueta) opens up space. 

Moreover, his midfield past also contributes to his composure when working to retain possession. Trevoh’s go-to move – that is – carrying the opposition’s forwards towards the touchline, creating time for the closest midfielder and wingback to arrive and pressure the opposing side – represents the fundamentals of Tuchel’s defence. 

Thus, he has been remarkably successful in delaying attacks and pushing forwards wide on the pitch. His pressure usually comes from behind the opponent. That is enabled thanks to his ability to read others’ positioning, in addition to his athletic form that prevents rivals from spinning and sprinting. 

On the other hand, he still lacks mastery in aerial duels. According to PremierLeague.com, he only has a 48% winning percentage of contested headers. Despite having what to improve in his game, Chalobah has experienced teammates from whom he can learn. And at just 22, he has got time in his favour. 

Back in London: A place in the first team

In the summer of 2021, Chelsea prepared to welcome its 33 on loan players to the 2021/22 pre-season. Amongst the wide variety of players who returned to Cobham, Chlobah stood out with his hunger to learn in training sessions.

The gaffer constantly expressed admiration for the defender’s athleticism and determination to show his value to the team. “His consistency [has impressed me]. He can produce the same performances in different games at this young age”, Tuchel said.

In the pre-season stages, Chalobah made appearances in the match against Bournemouth – as well as the Mind Series games against Arsenal and Tottenham. These performances were enough to convince Tuchel to keep him around. 

Collecting milestones: The best from Chalobah in the season 

Nonetheless, the best was yet to come. The 22-year-old had his awaited Chelsea debut in the clash against Villarreal. Despite struggling with pressure from the Spaniards at times throughout intense 120 minutes, he never gave up on battles to retain possession. And, as a result, he contributed to securing an unprecedented trophy in the club’s history.

Fast-forward to the Blues’ domestic campaign-opening match against Crystal Palace. The biggest Stamford Bridge crowd since the coronavirus pandemic struck in March 2020. Trevoh Chalobah completed another life-long dream of his: scoring at Stamford Bridge as a Blue. The goal – a memorable low shot from 25 yards out that hit the inferior-left post before going into the net – was later elected as the club’s August Goal of The Month by fans. 

Any Chelsea fan can confirm that it was an incredibly emotional celebration. It was, undoubtedly, one of the most special moments of the season. “I didn’t know it went in until the crowd cheered. It was a surreal moment”, the defender spoke to BBC Radio 5 Live. 

“It is a dream for a boy like me to be here and to play for my home club is unreal,” said Chalobah. Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC

His second goal in the league was in a clash against Southampton. He headed an opener at the 9-minute mark in a 3-1 win at the Bridge. 

Additionally, (more) happy days were to come when Chalobah’s influence reached the big European stage. In the box-office match against Juventus for the Champions League, the defender scored his third goal in the season. And first in the competition. 

The match against the Vecchia Signora was Chalobah’s first-ever Champions League start. At 25 minutes, he opened the 4-0 scoreline with a close-range finish after Juventus’ defence could not clear the corner from Ziyech. That day, with an outstanding performance in defence, Trevoh won his first-ever Man of The Match Award.

Officially a Blue until 2026: What the future holds for Chalobah 

In addition to Thomas Tuchel, club Director Marina Granovskaia also expressed admiration for the centre-back’s professionalism and commitment to Chelsea. She told ChelseaFC.com:

“To see Trevoh joining so many of his fellow Academy graduates in the men’s first team is something we are exceptionally proud of as a club. We are very pleased to be able to reward Trevoh’s progress with this new long-term contract”.

Trevoh Chalobah and club Director Marina Granovskaia announcing the defender’s new contract until 2026 – Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC 

So far, Chalobah has made 21 appearances in all competitions for the first team, of which he started in 16. In all of his 21 appearances, he has proved that he is a trustworthy, reliable, talented piece in Tuchel’s puzzle. 

Furthermore, his four-and-a-half year-long contract extension means good news for the club. With the uncertain futures of Rudiger and Christensen, guaranteeing a homegrown, top-quality defender is a reassuring business move from the board. 

Thus, the youngster has already been stepping up to the tasks that he has received. Every performance of his only boosts the hopes for him to achieve success at the club. With still plenty of time to develop and learn from his peers, it would certainly not be a surprise watching Trevoh Chalobah reach the absolute best at high-level football. 

Written by Maria Dulce (@mariausername)

Edited by Tom Coley (@tomcoley49)


Leave a Reply