We take a look back at Reece James’s season so far, an impressive breakthrough campaign at Stamford Bridge, as the focus intensifies on the football restart this weekend.
The 20-year-old has burst onto the scene this season alongside a number of his fellow Academy graduates who were playing in the Championship last term. He has taken to top-flight football impressively following his injury comeback in the autumn and was responsible for one of our moments of the campaign in November’s crazy 4-4 draw against Ajax…
Reece James: 26 appearances (nine as a sub), two goals, three assists
‘He’s got the abilities to go very far. I’ve got huge belief that he can go as far as he wants in the game because I see so much improvement. His raw talent and ability is just the start of the story. There’s a lot more to add on to that which is going to see him be a big, big player for this club.’
Frank Lampard pursued James as a loan signing while manager of Derby County last January, identifying him as an ideal addition to his Rams squad in their bid for Premier League promotion. At the time, the defender was settled and catching the eye at Wigan, where he stayed and picked up a host of end-of-season individual awards as his efforts helped the Latics fight off the threat of relegation.
The boss’s comments in the week after that eight-goal thriller in the Champions League reaffirmed his belief in both James’s potential and his ability to make an immediate impact on the team. He started his first Premier League game four days later and has been a regular ever since.
Fighting for fitness
After a hectic 2018/19 during which he made 46 appearances for Wigan in his maiden season in senior football, James headed to Toulon with the England Under-20s in June. His star was high after an excellent campaign but a nasty injury in the final group game against Chile saw him sustain ankle ligament damage which would sideline him for three months.
That meant the teenager missed pre-season with the new head coach as he worked alone on his rehabilitation, although his time in the treatment room did not diminish his standing in Lampard’s plans.
Encouraged by the advice of his assistants Jody Morris and Joe Edwards, who had worked with James for many successful years in the Academy, Lampard encouraged James to turn down offers of a Premier League loan in the summer and fight for a place in the Chelsea team. He made his debut in the Carabao Cup in September, marking the occasion with a goal in our 7-1 thrashing of Grimsby Town.
Championship to Champions League
A week later, James started again in a crucial Champions League game away at Lille at right wing-back. From that position, the youngster could maximise his attacking talents and demonstrate the quality of his end product, even if he didn’t add to his goal contributions from the Grimsby game that night in France. The Blues won 2-1 thanks to Willian’s late goal and the benefits of the new system were in full evidence.
On matchday four, James really announced himself to the watching world with a starring role in one of the all-time European classics at the Bridge as we came from 4-1 down with 35 minutes remaining to claim a draw against Ajax.
Introduced at half-time at right-back, with Cesar Azpilicueta switching to the left, he rifled in the decisive equaliser 16 minutes from time, becoming Chelsea’s youngest-ever Champions League goalscorer in the process and prompting incredible scenes at the Matthew Harding End.
Lampard has predominantly used James in defence, his versatility in being able to play as a right-back, right wing-back or on the right side of a back three offering more options to the Blues backline in the second half of the campaign.
His past three starts have come at wing-back, with Azpilicueta tucked into a back three, though he did come on in midfield in our most recent outing against Everton, once again demonstrating his useful adaptability. With plenty of challenges ahead in our final nine league games of the season, it will be interesting to see where Lampard chooses to deploy the boyhood Blue next.
Reece James’s Premier League stats 2019/20
Reece James stats
Reece James Premier League appearances 2019/20
James has played 17 times in the Premier League for Chelsea this season, six as a substitute.
Reece James Champions League appearances 2019/20
James made his Champions League debut in our win at Lille in October and has made five appearances in total in the competition this season, two as a substitute.
Reece James FA Cup appearances 2019/20
James has played in two of our three FA Cup ties this season, one as a substitute.
Reece James League Cup appearances 2019/20
James made his Blues debut in our Carabao Cup opener against Grimsby Town in September and started in the following round as we were beaten at home by Manchester United.
Reece James goals 2019/20
James has scored two goals for Chelsea this season, his first coming on his debut against Grimsby and his second a memorable equaliser at home to Ajax in the Champions League.