Adding the literal injury to the insult of yet another aimless defeat, Chelsea head coach Mauricio Pochettino confirmed that Reece James has suffered yet another hamstring strain, which forced him to come off halfway through the first-half in our 2-0 defeat at Goodison earlier today.
James didn’t seem in any obvious pain and there was no acute moment of the injury occurring, but cameras showed him with his head in his hands not long before he asked for the change. It’s undoubtedly as disappointing for him as it is for us.
“He felt something in his hamstring. It’s not so nice for him to suffer another injury. He is an important player.”
-Mauricio Pochettino; source: BBC
Obviously we don’t know the exact severity of the injury yet, and whether it’s the same leg as before, but that’s just the thing about hamstrings. Once you get one, the chance of another is always increased. “Managing” a recurring hamstring problem, which is what we’ve been trying to do with James for a while now, is rarely the best possible long-term solution.
Back in October, Pochettino confirmed that “we” are trying to avoid surgery. It’s unclear if “we” here means the club or the player (or both), but it may be time to reevaluate that decision. It’s been a couple years now for Reece dealing with these things, and as we saw in the case of N’Golo Kanté, conservative treatment plans tend to still lead to frequent absences. And that doesn’t help either the team or the player himself. (Incidentally, Kanté has been nearly ever-present for his new club after making the decision on season-ending surgery last season.)
This was James’ first start in three games. He had managed to start a few in a row before the last international break (coinciding with perhaps our best run of performances this season), but has already missed ten games this season (including nine in a row at the start). He was limited to just 24 appearances in all competitions last season, and has been able to start just 41 of our last 91 Premier League matches, since the start of the 2021-22 season (counting today, too).
Like N’Golo before, Reece is a player we can build around. But not if he’s so frequently injured. And even if the current ailment turns to be something very minor — though I’m not holding out hope — the bigger concern of his availability and injury history remains.