Reece James by no means seems fazed on a soccer pitch. No matter the stage, opponent, or place he’s used inside the Chelsea facet, the 21-year-old is in a position to produce his finest. That has once more been evident this week.
In back-to-back video games in opposition to Leicester City, James was used on the best of three-man defence by Thomas Tuchel. It was a decision taken to assist nullify the specter of Jamie Vardy, whose tempo has brought about numerous Premier League defenders quite a few issues over time.
Not James, although.
In the FA Cup remaining on Saturday – solely the second time James has performed as a centre-back in senior soccer – he saved the Foxes legend quiet. One second, particularly, stood out: within the first half, the Chelsea academy graduate was in a position to preserve tempo with Vardy earlier than barging the striker away from the ball.
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Given James’ show at Wembley, it was little shock Tuchel repeated the trick on Tuesday evening when the 2 sides met within the Premier League. Again the England worldwide shackled Vardy successfully – the Leicester star did not have a shot heading in the right direction all through the 90 minutes at Stamford Bridge.
To these common watchers of Chelsea’s academy sides, the performances from James on the best of the again three are unlikely to have come as an excessive amount of of a shock. He performed commonly within the function at youth degree for the Blues, together with within the 2017 and 2018 FA Youth Cup finals.
In the previous in opposition to Man City, James impressed over two legs in opposition to Jadon Sancho and Phil Foden. In the 2018 version, alongside Marc Guehi and Jonathan Panzo, he captained the Blues to a 7-1 combination victory over Arsenal, along with his show at the Emirates within the second leg significantly eye-catching.
That James has slipped again into the place at senior degree and immediately thrived is a testomony to the teaching he has obtained at Cobham because the age of six, however extra importantly his skill and temperament. It has additionally doubtlessly given him an edge when it comes to being named within the England squad for this summer season’s European Championships.
Gareth Southgate will announce his 26-man squad for the match subsequent Tuesday. There are a number of gamers who’re, barring damage, shoo-ins to be referred to as up, resembling James’ Chelsea teammate Mason Mount.
Who is taken at right-back, nonetheless, is unclear. The depth England possess within the place is considerably weird. James, Kyle Walker, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Kieran Trippier will all be hopeful of choice. Were it not for accidents, former Blue Tariq Lamptey and Leicester’s James Justin would even be in rivalry.
Southgate goes to have to disappoint a number of names on the above record; the final spherical of worldwide fixtures in March noticed Alexander-Arnold neglected – a lot to the consternation of Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool supporters and several other pundits – whereas Wan-Bissaka was additionally not concerned.
James, alongside the extra skilled Walker and Trippier, was chosen for the video games in opposition to San Marino, Albania and Poland. Southgate defined the explanation was that the 21-year-old was having an “distinctive” marketing campaign with Chelsea.
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Nothing has modified in that regard within the two months since. If something, James has solely developed his recreation additional. He had proved himself as a full-back underneath Frank Lampard however has now shone at wing-back and impressed on the best of a again three underneath Tuchel.
That versatility must be an enormous plus level for Southgate. By deciding on James, he would possess a participant who can star in a number of positions and thrive in several techniques. Given this summer season’s match is going down after essentially the most intense of Premier League seasons might show massively essential.
Forget the battle of the England right-backs, James transcends that. He is just too good in too many positions, together with midfield, to pigeonhole. Tuchel has made that apparent to Southgate this week. The Three Lions boss could be silly to overlook the Chelsea star.