At the tender age of just 20 — younger than most even in such a youthful squad — Reece James has emerged as one of Chelsea’s biggest difference-makers. We had hoped that this would indeed be the case at the start of the season, following his impressive loan at Wigan Athletic last season, but a summertime ankle injury and subsequent surgery cast a bit of extra doubt on his prospects, beyond just the normal caution that must be exercised with any young player regardless of talent.
He’s impressed with his fantastic crossing, his skill and confidence on the ball, and his strength on and off the ball. He is of course far from a finished product, but that just means he’s got plenty of room to improve. Considering how good he already is, that’s a great thing. It feels like we’re just scratching the surface.
Here’s head coach Frank Lampard with a mid-season assessment as we head into the winter break:
“He’s a weapon for us. He can attack with his crossing but we need to get on the end of them more. And he’s also very solid defensively.
“When you think of his age, you can get excited about Reece. There is a lot more he can obviously do but I’m really pleased with how he’s developing at the minute.”
Praise is important. Constant improvement is even more important. Lampard has identified three areas for the young right back to work on: positioning, link-up, defending.
“There are all the sides of his game he can work on, although I’m not going to improve his crossing, I don’t think, because he’s a natural. But we can talk about his position, his link-up with the winger in front of him and the midfield players, and his defensive attributes because they are first and foremost. And making sure he is always in the right areas.
“And he is very open to that, as he should be. Like all the young players at Chelsea are, they are sponges, they want to learn. They want to listen. So you enjoy coaching them because they want to get better.”
-Frank Lampard; source: Goal
Incidentally, James recently revealed to the Chelsea official website that he’s only been working on his crossing since age 14 or 15, which is also when he started playing right back in the Academy. A natural, indeed.
Now it’s about working on the rest of his game to ensure that he becomes and remains as much of a mainstay in the team as the man he’s replacing at the position, César Azpilicueta. Armed with a new long-term contract and the will to work hard, improve, and win, James is a solid bet in that regard as well.
“[Lampard] has had a big impact ever since I got back fit. He’s told me what I’m doing well and where he still thinks I can get better.
“I’m thankful that everyone believes in me here. I just want to play, give it my all and repay everyone.”
-Reece James; source: Chelsea FC
James is bound to play a big role the rest of this season, and hopefully going forward for a long time as well.