When Reece James limped off in Chelsea’s opening weekend 1-1 draw with Liverpool, Mauricio Pochettino steered he was withdrawn because of tiredness reasonably than harm. A number of days later, the Blues boss confirmed James had sustained a hamstring downside. “It is a hamstring. It is not just a few days, just a few weeks possibly,” Pochettino stated virtually a month in the past, and James hasn’t featured since.
Fortuitously for Chelsea, their skipper ought to be match to return to motion later this month. Whereas Sunday’s journey to Bournemouth does come too quickly for James, supporters can relaxation assured his harm wasn’t extra extreme. Crucially is that Chelsea even have related cowl for James at proper wing-back, whereas beforehand they’d have struggled for a alternative when the 23-year-old inevitably spends time on the sidelines.
The likes of Cesar Azpilicueta and Ruben Loftus-Cheek would have been referred to as upon to function within the function in years passed by, and the shortage of attacking output and expertise within the place has proven. Chelsea have been robbed of a key outlet down the correct in James’ absence up to now, however the Blues have corrected this situation.
Again in January, Chelsea confirmed the signing of Malo Gusto. The Frenchman would go on to remain at Lyon for the second half of the marketing campaign to garner common sport time previous to his swap to west London over the summer time. He maybe could not have anticipated to have been thrust into first crew motion so quickly, although James’ harm historical past implies that should not have come as a shock.
Nonetheless, Gusto hasn’t seemed out of types within the Premier League, and this has been a welcomed enhance for the Blues. Chelsea’s begin to the season hasn’t gone fairly in keeping with plan. They’ve picked up 4 factors from the opening 4 video games, falling to defeat at West Ham and at house to Nottingham Forest previous to the worldwide break, with the previous points nonetheless a fear.
No crew has missed extra large possibilities than Pochettino’s aspect (11), whereas a conversion fee of seven.5% is the fifth worst within the division. Pochettino wasn’t instantly going to rectify their aim woes, however 5 targets in 4 video games, three of which have been at house towards Premier League debutants Luton – two of these have been assisted by Gusto – does not make for nice studying.
🅰️ Malo Gusto has registered extra Premier League assists (2) than Reece James (1) because the begin of the 2022/23 season pic.twitter.com/XaRaQ8DRD9
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) September 15, 2023
There have, although, been positives, albeit a handful, and Gusto’s adjustment from French to English soccer is one. Whereas the Frenchman is not of the identical calibre of James with regards to creating possibilities – Gusto has solely made two key passes, the identical is the Blues skipper, regardless of registering extra minutes – it is the will to beat an opponent to open up area within the last third that helps put Chelsea on the frontfoot.
A return of 1.4 dribbles per 90 is the third most of all Chelsea gamers with Gusto’s willingness to get the ball down and run at markers a key weapon the Blues’ armoury as they search to stretch opponents. There’s additionally the defensive work that Gusto places in to supply further safety to the backline, with 2.4 tackles per 90 rating third for the Blues. It is a small pattern dimension, granted, however the early indicators are constructive.
Most significantly, although, is that Chelsea do have an attacking wing-back that may deputise when James is sidelined for one cause or one other. That is to not say that Gusto will hold his place within the aspect – as captain, James can be one of many first names on the teamsheet when match – however whereas there have been comprehensible considerations in earlier seasons when James was absent, Chelsea can at the least preserve that attacking stability with Gusto a greater than in a position deputy at proper wing-back.
Chelsea have rightly been criticised for spending over £1bn within the final 12 months, assembling a squad that’s nowhere close to able to compete for high honours, but Gusto has rapidly taken on Pochettino’s calls for to turn out to be a key squad member. In a misguided recruitment drive since Todd Boehly took over the reins, Chelsea’s resolution to signal the 20-year-old deserves reward.