As the Chelsea squad prepare for the second game of our pre-season tour in America, Reece James reflects on the time spent Stateside so far and discusses his positional versatility ahead of the new campaign…
The Blues have arrived in Orlando and will take on Charlotte FC in our next outing of the summer schedule on Wednesday evening local time (early Thursday morning in the UK).
James was involved for the second half in our opener against Club America in Las Vegas, setting up the opener for Timo Werner before putting through his own net which levelled the scores. Mason Mount eventually won it for the Blues to ensure a winning start to the trip as the team make the most of 2022/23 preparations.
‘It’s nice to be out here having pre-season in America,’ James told us earlier this week. ‘For the first few days we’ve been training and just preparing for the new season really.
‘I didn’t go to Japan [in 2019] because I was injured and then last year I didn’t go to Dublin because we were at the Euros so this is sort of my first proper pre-season tour.
‘Pre-season is obviously an important time to get fit and it helps a lot, preparing right for the new season. We know there’s going to be a stoppage halfway through for the World Cup and it’s going to be a bit different with a lot more games so we need to prepare right.’
James is likely to see a reshuffle among his defensive colleagues this term, with Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger having departed, while Kalidou Koulibaly has bolstered the ranks from Napoli.
If Thomas Tuchel decides to stick mostly to his 3-4-3 system, there may be opportunities for the England international in the centre, a role he played on numerous occasions last season as well as his usual deployment at right wing-back.
While the 22-year-old enjoys the freedom of charging up and down the flank, he is also willing and able to adapt, utilising the versatility he developed during his Academy days when he was also used in midfield.
‘I don’t really look or listen to any of that,’ he said of the talk about his best position.
‘Wherever I’m asked to play, I’ll do my best and try to help the team as much as I can.
‘I personally prefer to play wing-back out of the two positions but Thomas is the manager and I’m the player so wherever I’m required to play, I’ll always play.
‘I’ve played a number of positions before and I’m used to it now so it’s just about adapting on the day.’
James has enjoyed the chance to build up fitness, first at the excellent UCLA facilities and with the Californian sunshine providing the perfect backdrop, and more recently in Vegas and now Florida.
With the Premier League season kicking off in under three weeks’ time, there is a pressing need to quickly get back up to speed and he has relished being back in match action for the first time since England’s UEFA Nations League defeat against Hungary a month ago.
‘I came to Boston a few years ago before with Chelsea on a post-season trip but haven’t been to America apart from that,’ he added. ‘I’ve loved it so far and we’ve had a little bit of time to go out and explore.
‘But our job is to play football and matches are the most important thing for us so just to get back into the swing of things and get those first minutes under our belt has been really good.’