Premier League 2019/20: Why Reece James' return is integral for Chelsea this season
Frank Lampard's return to Chelsea as manager has energized the club. There is a belief that the academy players will finally get their chance to break into the Chelsea side. This is backed by the moves Chelsea have made in the summer.
Starlets like Mason Mount, Ruben Loftus-Cheek have already signed new deals. The club stood their ground to prevent their academy's crown jewel Callum Hudson-Odoi getting poached by Bayern Munich and he is expected to sign a new deal soon.
There is one academy player though who seems to have gone under the radar, and the truth is that he may be the most impressive of them all.
Reece James was on loan at Wigan Athletic last season. His impact at Wigan can be felt by the fact that he captained the team in the final game of the season and was given a standing ovation when he was substituted.
The Wigan fans believe he was the major reason for their escape from relegation and this was evident in the fact that James won multiple Player of the Month awards.
He was awarded Wigan's Player of the Season award. He was also named in the Championship Team of the Season. Even though his primary position is full-back, James was equally good in the midfield for Wigan. The biggest praise came from Wigan's manager Paul Cook.
“I’m not speaking about Reece James. I don’t need to. He’s player of the month every month, and he’s man of the match almost every week. There’s nothing else I can say about him. And he’s as good a lad as he is a player.”
His success at Wigan should not surprise anyone who has followed his career. James has always been highly rated at youth level. James has helped England win the Under-19 European Championship and the Under-20 Toulon Tournament.
He has also led Chelsea's youth teams to multiple trophies and was also voted as Chelsea's Academy's Player of the Season for the season 2017-2018.
This summer seemed to be the perfect moment for him to break into Chelsea's squad. Unfortunately, he suffered an ankle injury while playing for England at the Toulon Tournament and due to this injury, he had to miss the entirety of Chelsea's pre-season.
Luckily for him, Chelsea seem to have noticed his qualities. They rejected loan bids for him in the summer and are also looking to sell Davide Zappacosta to promote Reece James. Chelsea's first-choice right-back, Cesar Azpilicueta, has been a fantastic performer for the club over the years. But, lately, his performances suggest that he may be slowing down. James has the qualities to be the perfect heir to Azpilicueta, as he is equally strong both defensively and offensively. He is a fantastic crosser of the ball and good at getting out of tight spaces.
James is expected to return to training early next month. Frank Lampard's comments after Chelsea's loss to Manchester United suggest that he is eagerly waiting for James to be back as well since he mentioned that he expects Reece James to be a big player for Chelsea during the season.
The bulk of the attention has been focussed on young players like Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham, and Hudson-Odoi. There is no doubt that all three young players are immensely talented and will play a big role this season for Chelsea. But, maybe the best of the bunch is yet to come. Hopefully, as the season progresses, everyone will see what Chelsea and Wigan fans have known for some time now - James is the real deal and he is here to stay.