Mauricio Pochettino can have been conscious of the danger of creating Reece James Chelsea captain again in August. A brand new skipper was wanted at Stamford Bridge following Cesar Azpilicueta’s departure and James was the logical selection, to an extent. The England worldwide is a Chelsea youth academy product and any fan of any membership loves an area lad rising by way of the ranks to captain their aspect.
The chance with James, although, stems from his damage points. This got here to cross in Chelsea’s opening weekend 1-1 draw with Liverpool, the place the 23-year-old lasted 76 minutes earlier than pulling up with a hamstring damage. He did not begin one other league recreation till the 4-1 win at Tottenham earlier this month.
And but upon his return to the beginning XI, James proved as soon as extra simply how vital he’s for Chelsea. Whereas a lot of the main focus from the victory at Tottenham was on Spurs’ implosion and choice to play a high-line with 9 males, James put in a stable shift each on and off the ball in north London previous to his 77th-minute withdrawal. He adopted this up with one other very good show in opposition to Manchester Metropolis on Sunday the place Cole Palmer stole the plaudits for his match-winning penalty deep into second half damage time.
However, it was a recreation that James actually showcased the defensive qualities to his recreation as he made extra tackles (5) than every other participant. Crucially, was that he excelled up in opposition to wing-wizard Jeremy Doku. A lot of the main focus forward of Sunday’s Stamford Bridge showdown was whether or not Doku would flip in one other efficiency of the best normal having been straight concerned in 5 of Metropolis’s six targets in opposition to Bournemouth the earlier week, aiding 4.
What followers witnessed was Doku’s worst rated show in a Premier League begin of his profession as he returned a WhoScored score of simply 6.92. The Belgian might have accomplished 4 dribbles within the 4-4 draw with Chelsea, however he was restricted to 1 shot and did not create an opportunity previous to his substitution within the 59th minute. Briefly, Doku was marshalled brilliantly by James, who not solely saved the summer time signing in verify however was in a position to get ahead and assist the offensive properly having supplied the help for Raheem Sterling’s first half purpose.
These performances upon his return to health define simply why James is among the first names on the teamsheet when he’s obtainable to Pochettino. The difficulty then stems from the inconsistency with which James could be chosen. Certainly, he solely began 14 league video games for the Blues final season because of damage and the issue stays that with every passing week he might once more pull up with one other ailment.
🏴 Reece James’ statistically calculated WhoScored traits:
✅ Key passes
✅ Holding on to the ball
❌ Focus pic.twitter.com/CyX53kfzO2
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) November 15, 2023
Having failed to finish 90 minutes following his return to health, James then made the clever name to snub Gareth Southgate’s call-up for the November internationals in opposition to Malta and North Macedonia, and for good cause. England are already assured a spot at Euro 2024, although they will wish to guarantee top-seed standing for subsequent month’s draw so are more likely to push for victory in each video games.
Southgate has steered that James’ spot within the squad is in danger having turned down the prospect to characteristic for his nation this month and with ample competitors for the right-back spot within the type of Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier and Trent Alexander-Arnold, he has to an extent put his Euro 2024 place in jeopardy. But there’s additionally an argument to be made that of the 4 high-profile right-backs Southgate can choose, James stays the most effective of the bunch when he’s obtainable for choice.
Regardless of an absence of recreation time this time period, James put in a superb shift to do all he may to restrict the Spurs assault. Granted, this was a Spurs aspect that noticed Cristian Romero and Future Udogie despatched off both aspect of half time, however one which has nonetheless netted 24 occasions this season. The job he carried out on Doku to drive Pep Guardiola to change his assault on the hour mark too can’t be overstated.
Mixed along with his attacking output regardless of now beginning at right-back fairly than proper wing-back as he so typically did final season, with James averaging 2.6 key passes per 90, the sixth most of these to have registered at the very least 200 minutes of recreation time, and you’ve got a participant who’s prepared to get ahead with out a second invitation who additionally will not shirk his defensive obligations. That he’s doing so in a deeper function than the one he’s accustomed to factors to a participant ready to tailor his recreation accordingly with a purpose to perform the related duties for the nice of the workforce and this need to match the calls for of the supervisor in query stands him in good stead for each membership and nation.
Crucially for James and Chelsea is that he now do all he can to stay match. Regardless of Southgate’s admission that his function within the England squad is in danger, James must keep away from the type of fixtures that the Three Lions ought to win his absence to concentrate on totally recovering from yet one more hamstring damage. Because the final two league begins have proven, he continues to show why he ought to arguably be thought-about the most effective English right-back obtainable to Southgate. Conserving him match and firing might be key for Chelsea within the second half of the season and England in Germany subsequent summer time.