This article is part of Football FanCast’s In Numbers series, which takes a statistical look at performances, season-long form and reported transfer targets…
The Frank Lampard Chelsea revolution is officially under way. The Blues legend’s first game in charge of the club ended in a 1-1 draw with Bohemians and there were plenty of positives to take away, particularly the performances of some of the youngsters.
The west London’s side prospective transfer ban is likely to increase the use of the side’s highly-talented academy players, but one man who won’t be featuring anytime soon is Reece James. Reports in recent weeks had delivered some promising news on the injury the right-back had initially suffered during this summer’s Toulon tournament, but it appears hopes of him returning for the start of the Premier League season have been dashed.
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According to the right-back’s Twitter post, James has undergone surgery and it remains to be seen when the 19-year-old will eventually make his comeback. Despite the presence of both Davide Zappacosta and Cesar Azpilicueta, James’ loss robs the Blues of a real attacking outlet and one who would have thrived under Lampard’s front-foot style of play.
In an impressive loan spell at Wigan last season in the Championship, James stood out like a sore thumb. At the club’s end of season awards ceremony, the 19-year-old scooped up the three biggest prizes on offer: Player of the Year, Players’ Player of the Year and Goal of the Season. His performances even saw him named in the EFL Championship Team of the Season too.
Despite being a full-back, James’ best work came whilst going forward. A powerfully-built defender, the Chelsea academy product registered three goals and three assists last season whilst bombing forward into attack. His average of a shot per game is startling considering his natural position on the pitch and speaks highly of his willingness to get involved with the side’s attacking combinations.
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Indeed, Leeds legend Eddie Gray said of him: “He is a good footballer. He has an eye for goal as well, he is willing to take chances and take shots on goal. He is powerful, willing to run with the ball and is a good player.”
Averaging 1.6 key passes and crosses per game, James offered Wigan a real attacking outlet from right-back and would have done so for Lampard at Chelsea. Following Eden Hazard’s departure, the Blues will have to share the creative and goal-scoring burden around, and having someone like James who could contribute so brilliantly from right-back would have added a different dimension.
Instead, Chelsea will be left ruing the nature of James’ injury and missing out on what he can offer going forward.