Interview

James relishes derby goal and aims for gradual progress in long campaign

For the second year in a row, Reece James marked our maiden away game of the season with a thumping strike, setting Chelsea on the way to victory against Arsenal.

The defender started at wing-back for Thomas Tuchel’s men at the Emirates and was heavily involved throughout an impressive first half, initially teeing up Romelu Lukaku for the opening goal after a quarter of an hour before netting himself 20 minutes later with an effort that was hit with trademark power and precision.

A 2-0 lead was too much for the Gunners to overhaul, with James also helping the visitors to another clean sheet. The 21-year-old was, therefore, understandably delighted when he spoke after the game to reflect on a positive performance and a first win in four against our London rivals.

‘It’s obviously great to score for my club against such tough opposition and to help the team to win today is a great feeling,’ he said.

‘We started so well and so sharply, got the two fast goals early on and that helped settle the game down.

‘We knew it was going to be a hard place to come with their fans back in the stadium and because the start of the season is always hard to get going but we did really well to get the away win. It’s a massive derby against a very big rival so to get three points was very special.’

James’s fourth senior goal for the Blues came on the same day that Lukaku netted his first and the young defender was particularly impressed with the Belgian’s all-round display on his second debut.

As well as scoring, our number nine saw a thumping header expertly tipped onto the crossbar by Bernd Leno, while his hold-up play and combinations with new team-mates was also effective.

‘His performance speaks for itself,’ he continued. ‘I don’t really need to say too much because everyone saw how well he played today, how he uses his body and bullies players.

‘I’m very happy he’s here. He showed his strengths and qualities with how good he is and how he scores goals. He’s a great addition to our team.’

There was concern for James late in the game when he required on-field treatment following a nasty collision with Nuno Tavares, an incident that left some onlookers wondering if the defender had suffered concussion.

Tuchel was quick to clarify in his own post-match interviews that it was not a head injury, rather a worry that he had lost a tooth, and James offered a further update.

‘Yeah it’s alright,’ he replied when asked about the tooth.

‘I was a bit shocked at the time but it’s fine. I knew what happened. I got a kick in the face but that’s just part of football.’

Chelsea’s challenging start to the season continues next weekend with a trip to Anfield, an encounter that will bring together two teams that are yet to drop a point or concede a goal in the league this term.

While it is far too early to talk about the title race, the contest will certainly offer a test of the Blues’ credentials and James acknowledges it will be a difficult task that requires intelligence and intensity to overcome.

‘Liverpool have been up there at the top of the Premier League for the last few seasons so we know going there will be a very tough game,’ added James.

‘We need to prepare right and bring the same intensity as today into that game but our team is very strong. We have a number of top players in each position so when one top player comes off, there’s another one replacing them, which keeps the competition really high.

‘I wouldn’t say there’s any pressure on us right now. We have to take it game by game but obviously our aim is to win every week. Everybody here is ambitious and wants to win the title but we just have to take things slowly right now.’

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