With Chelsea’s youth taking centre stage at the beginning of the season, Reece James had to bide his time before stepping into the limelight for Chelsea. Fans had to wait to see the 20-year-old in action due to injury, but it was definitely worth the short wait. Since then, he has established himself as a Chelsea fan’s favourite and established himself as a key member in Frank Lampard’s team. Youth has been the way forward and James might well be the best export.
Debut vs Grimsby
James made his first team debut under Lampard against Grimsby Town in the Carabao Cup, where he starred with a goal and two assists as Chelsea turned on the style winning 7-1 in the third round fixture. It was the first chance for Chelsea fans to see him in action and see what type of player the right back was.
On the night we saw him display the trait of the modern right back: a physical gifted player who could manage the right side, whilst having an emphasis on attack. An outside of the boot cross from James was set on a plate for Kurt Zouma to tap in to showcase that coveted trait. James showed a real quality from the wide areas; his introduction to the team was perfect that night, in what was a low pressure environment against a much weaker team.
Season Review (Stats)
For a first season, it has to be seen as a success. Embedding into the Chelsea team extremely smoothly is a testament to how good James has been. He’s still raw, don’t get me wrong, but the talent and temperament is there. In terms of his positioning, we see him cover a lot of ground up and down the right flank and he is a key source of creativity in the wide areas. But he doesn’t leave the defence exposed as he tracks back, and he has held down the right hand side extremely well in comparison to the left back area.
Defensively we’ve seen him make 1.98 successful tackles a game with a success rate of 63% and 1.26 interceptions per 90. Dribbled past per game also stood at 0.8, which shows his defensive quality. He’s also been good in the air and wins 1.4 aerial duels per game.
Going forward is where he excels. James put up 1 key pass per 90, 0.9 shots per 90 with two assists and two goals. His dribble success is high at 73%, with 2.18 successful dribbles per 90. His quality on the ball is also very good, with 86% pass success rate, 3.11 passes into the final third per 90 and an expected assist of 0.16 per game.
His best moment so far is one that saw him become the clubs youngest ever Champions League goalscorer in THAT game versus Ajax. With Chelsea down four goals to one, they fought back to within a goal. When Zouma’s header hit the bar, James was on hand to power home the finish from inside the box to send Stamford Bridge into a frenzy. A great moment for him and for all the Chelsea fans was made even better as the celebration saw all the academy graduates celebrating together with the fans, giving us a glimpse into what we hope to be a successful future driven by youth.
Areas to Improve
After his first season in the top flight, he’s impressed – there’s no doubt about that. In terms of progressing onward, he has to continue to match the standards set by himself first and foremost. In terms of his weaknesses, he is such an all-around player and that makes it hard to pick out any real weaknesses in his game. Consistency at the back is key for him, as while he has the ability to attack, Chelsea’s defence is something that needs improvement. He has to continue to learn in the role and he just needs another full season to continue developing.
Flash forward four or five years and I expect Reece James to still be Chelsea’s right back (if he hasn’t moved into a midfield by then). His skill set and ability make for such a well-rounded, modern full back that it seems to crazy to play him anywhere else. For me, I think we’re looking at a right back for the long term here. I hope he can keep improving and producing performance levels that can put him in the bracket of the world’s best. I fully expect him to be in the conversation for the best right back in the world down the line. He has a bright future for club and country, that’s for sure.
Plain and simple, we’re looking at Chelsea’s right back for years to come.
Edited by: Dan