Reece James’ rise continues just as expected, as the teenager fulfilled another childhood dream last night with his first Champions League appearance, after making his Chelsea debut and getting his first Chelsea goal last week. Playing alongside several of his Academy classmates, it was yet another glorious early chapter in the youth revolution as Chelsea took all three points from a strong and equally young, if not even more youthful Lille side.
James stopped by for a brief chat with Chelsea TV afterwards, and while he was not nearly as exuberant as Abraham (and that’s understatement), he was hopefully just as delighted with the match specifically and how things have been going this season, in general.
“It’s a great experience playing in this competition. It’s what I dreamed of since I was a little boy. And now I’ve done it!
“It’s a bit strange playing with all the players I grew up with on this big stage, but it’s great. And getting the three points, it’s fantastic.”
As the summer transfer activity started to make it clear that Chelsea were planning a big role for James this season, we had been wondering how Lampard would fit in both him and captain ever-present César Azpilicueta.
Some had guessed a possible return to a 3-4-3 look, and while we did not see that happen in preseason, Lampard did recently start implementing it in both training and in match settings. And sure enough, yesterday, the 3-4-3 returned once again, with Azpilicueta taking up his role under Conte on the right side of the back three and James deployed at right wing-back. Unsurprisingly, the setup worked quite well in all phases of the game.
For James, it was just another day at the office, another reward for his hard work over the years as well as since recovering from offseason ankle surgery.
“You always have to believe it’s going to be there, but you don’t know when it’s gonna come, so you just have to keep on working. [Lampard told me to] just do what I usually do, to be strong and compete, and my ability will come through.”
Reece did not last the full match as Lampard changed things up for the final 25 minutes, switching to a back-four and adding Callum Hudson-Odoi into the fray — a change that Lampard explained as both tactical and fitness-inspired, with James still coming up to full match fitness. Hudson-Odoi would end up providing the assist for Willian’s winning goal, justifying the change, and getting Chelsea a third successive win in all competitions.
“We knew it was going to be tough coming here [but] we dug in and got the three points. Momentum’s building and into the next game in the Premier League, and we’ll keep on going from there.”
-Reece James; source: Chelsea TV
James already looks established as part of the squad rotation, and he himself will surely only keep building momentum from here. Let’s go!