Football News

Ian Maatsen: The Champions League semi-finalist thriving after “surprise” Chelsea departure

By Harry Edwards

Published: 17:34, 17 April 2024

Ian Maatsen has admitted he was surprised that he was allowed to leave Chelsea on loan for Borussia Dortmund in the winter.

Chelsea have struggled at left-back this season, with Ben Chilwell fighting fitness and Marc Cucurella failing to impress. As a result, Levi Colwill was asked to play out of position with varying — but mostly negative — results.

This was despite Maatsen being with the club. Chelsea had tried to sell Maatsen in the summer, accepted a bid worth £31.5m from Burnley, which the player himself turned down.

Although he played 15 times for Chelsea in the first half of the season, Maatsen managed just 376 minutes, with 177 of those coming across three EFL Cup appearances. In the Premier League, it was 201 minutes across 12 cameos with his longest time on the pitch 58 minutes from the start against Crystal Palace.

However, that was as a right-winger. In fact, just 36 of Maatsen’s Premier League minutes came at left-back.

In his limited time on the pitch for Chelsea, Maatsen created just two chances and had five shots, while also failing all four of his attempted take-ons. But in the Bundesliga, and Champions League, Maatsen has found his feet.

Playing in his natural left-back position, Maatsen is getting more involved in the Borussia Dortmund attack with 0.66 chances created per 90 minutes and two assists. He’s also scored from his average of 0.83 shots per 90.

Maatsen is also showing his worth defensively. In the Bundesliga, the Dutchman has averaged 2.07 tackles per 90 minutes and 3.31 possessions won in the defensive third. Since Maatsen joined on loan, Dortmund have an Expected Goals on Target Conceded tally of 0.86 per 90 minutes compared to 1.76 before. They have also conceded on average fewer shots after Maatsen than before — at 12.62 compared to 14.94.

The 22-year-old has also stepped up in the Champions League, playing every minute of Dortmund’s four games since his arrival. Again, he’s created 0.5 chances, made 1.75 tackles and 4.0 possessions won in the defensive third per 90 minutes. And, most importantly, he scored in their 4-2 win over Atletico Madrid to send Dortmund through to the Champions League semi-finals.

Maatsen’s goal was the second of the night, putting Dortmund ahead on aggregate and was a well-taken finish. Running onto a backheel from Marcel Sabitzer, Maatsen’s finish was one of a winger, drilling the ball across goal into the bottom far corner.

His performance had some Chelsea fans questioning the club’s decision to let him go, and Mauricio Pochettino’s failure to use him in the first half of the campaign. There is no purchase option for Maatsen in the summer, but many expect him to move away permanently, with Chelsea reportedly valuing the left-back at around £35m.

But Maatsen has revealed his lack of game time and subsequent loan departure in January came as a surprise.

“No, I was surprised. I think I always believed [I could] play for Chelsea as well, but unfortunately for some reasons it didn’t work out how it should’ve,” Maatsen told CBS Sports.

“Now I’m here I’m very grateful for the opportunity. I can say I’m very proud of myself. I kept believing in myself and came here to experience playing my game at the highest level, playing my game. Today I think I showed a very good performance. I’m very happy.”