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If Reece James needs surgery, why are we faffing about with conservative treatments?

Ham-stringing along

Chelsea FC Training Session Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

Reece James could be ready to return to action today, against Arsenal (or at least be on the bench), and that’s great news indeed for our captain and key player.

But in the off-camera portion of his pre-match press conference, head coach Mauricio Pochettino seemed to suggest that James is far from being in the clear with his hamstring — and not just in the short-term. In fact, we’re just hoping that we can manage the situation with conservative treatment instead of taking the plunge and fixing things for good with surgery.

“What we are trying to do is to avoid what you say [surgery]. We also have a very good strategy to put him at his best and keep him fit. It is impossible forever [to never be injured again].

“He is much better, much better, he is progressing well but still not at his best 100 percent. I think maybe he can help the team at some point — he is close to being there.”

-Mauricio Pochettino; source: Evening Standard

And that’s all well and good, to have a specific plan by the physios — even if we ignore the horrendous injury record of our medical department — but anecdotally, such approaches rarely produce the expected positive and, more importantly, lasting outcomes.

We tried this same thing, for example, with N’Golo Kanté for years (Frank Lampard talked about having a plan, then Thomas Tuchel did the same, then Graham Potter). Kanté eventually had surgery last year and wouldn’t you know it, he now leads his new club, Al-Ittihad in minutes played, having started 12 of 13 games in all competitions and played all but 45 of the 1170 minutes available to him.

Chelsea FC v Liverpool FC - Premier League Photo by Chris Lee - Chelsea FC/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

More pertinently, James himself has tried this sort of approach last year already, and the year before, and the injury (or injuries) keep reoccurring. Even if this latest conservative treatment plan works, how long before we’re back here talking about the same issue again?

In fairness, Diego Costa managed to be an effective (and key) player for us (in at least two out of his three seasons) despite dealing with hamstring injuries throughout his time here (and before, and after). And Costa tried everything other than surgery, including, famously, electroshock therapy plus some horse placenta massage.

But if James’ issue is bad enough that surgery is something we’re trying oh-so-hard to avoid, why are we risking that in the first place? Losing him for most of the rest of just this current season would be preferable to constantly losing him for weeks, months at a time for every season going forward. Hard to build a team around a player who constantly misses chunks of the season...

So let’s fix it once and for all (even if hamstring injuries cannot ever be completely avoidable).

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