A great, yet shaky start
At the start of the 2020/21 season, Reece James couldn’t have got off to a better start. He scored a thunderbolt from distance in Chelsea’s 3-1 victory over Brighton, setting the wheels of Frank Lampard’s second season in charge of the Blues in motion. Despite conceding a poor goal against the Seagulls, the supporters felt that this could be the start of an exciting campaign.
The next game brought everyone back down to earth though, as Chelsea fell to a 2-0 loss against Liverpool, with Christensen getting sent off. In terms of James’ performance that game, it is safe to say he was run ragged slightly and it was back to square one for Lampard and the side.
The impressive run of form
From there, Chelsea went unbeaten in all competitions for the next sixteen games as the Blues kept ten clean sheets.
The 4-0 victory over Crystal Palace at the start of October was where Reece James started to look back to his best, alongside Kurt Zouma. The performance suggested that Lampard was starting to get something right with the defence.
Reece James keeps his form as Chelsea part ways with Lampard
The side’s impressive unbeaten streak, starting with the Palace game eventually ended during mid-December, when Chelsea fell to a disappointing 1-0 loss to Everton. Reece James still retained his plaudits for that game; one of a select few in the side to do so.
The next month or so over the Christmas period was one that Chelsea fans will want to forget as they won just four of the next nine games, before Lampard was unfortunately sacked on January 25th 2021.
Concern over James’ future as a Chelsea starter as Tuchel takes over
As always with new managers coming into clubs, there is always a worry that some players who have performed well under previous coaches might be cast out. Thomas Tuchel came in and immediately put his foot down by implementing a three at the back formation, as James was surprisingly dropped by the German in favour of playing Callum Hudson-Odoi in the right wing-back position for the next couple of games.
After a goalless draw to Wolves and a comfortable 2-0 victory over Burnley, James came back into the side for the following game vs Tottenham. Tuchel was of course looking at all the players he had at his disposal, but many fans thought it was harsh to drop Hudson-Odoi after he looked very convincing against Wolves and Burnley.
However, James came in and performed admirably as Chelsea produced a stunning controlled display against Spurs, winning 1-0.Embed from Getty Images
For the next 10 to 15 games, Tuchel was content to rotate between Reece James and Hudson-Odoi in the right wing-back role. It became abundantly clear that James was the more effective player in that position, the 21-year-old made it look easy, displaying an electrifying ability of defensive and attacking output.
Reece James finally cements his starting role
From the Porto quarter-final first leg onwards, the right wing-back role belonged to James, as Hudson-Odoi’s game time withered drastically which highlighted the level of James’ performances under Tuchel following the German’s arrival at Chelsea.
Massive end of season performances
During the season’s run-in, we managed to even see James play right centre-back at times, and once in centre midfield, where he had done so during his time at Wigan.
James’ performance in the Champions League Final against Manchester City was nothing short of world-class. He kept Raheem Sterling quiet for the entire match, bombing up and down the right flank whenever we had the ball. If N’Golo Kante didn’t play, he would certainly have been up there for Man of The Match contention alongside Mason Mount and Kai Havertz.
(pic of James with CL medal)Embed from Getty Images
Across the campaign with the changes in management, playing style and formation that James has had to deal with, the young man has performed like a seasoned veteran. He has hardly put a foot wrong in the crucial moments and hasn’t kicked up any fuss or dropped his performance level when his starting position in the side has been under threat.
If Chelsea can mount (no pun intended) a title charge next season, I see no reason why Reece James cannot earn himself the Young Player of the Season Award.
Reece James at Euro 2020
Regarding his place in the England team for Euro 2020, with Trent Alexander-Arnold injured, I expect James to be top of the list to start at right wing-back for the Three Lions. With Gareth Southgate’s love for his defenders’ versatility, I would be very interested to see what could happen if James were to be deployed in central defence.Embed from Getty Images
If you’re looking for a defender who can do a bit of everything, James is your man. England and Chelsea are extremely lucky to have him and I can speak for all Chelsea fans in saying that alongside the other young talents in our team, the future is as bright as it has ever been.
With Reece James now firmly cementing his place in the Chelsea team and making himself known to the rest of the footballing world, things can only get better for our star man for both club and country. I am itching to see how he, (as my favourite player at Chelsea), grows going forward.
Written by Luka Foley (@UOGLuka)
Edited by Dom Domaingue & Rob Pratley