Pat Nevin suggests that Thomas Tuchel’s decision to play Chelsea star Reece James at centre-back so far this season has held him back.
James, 22, is an outstanding Blues player that’s played every minute of the opening three Premier League games.
Despite being most recognised as a full-back/wing-back, he’s been deployed as a centre-back for large spells at the beginning of the new season.
The England international has regularly proven what an attacking force he can be as a right wing-back, but he can do a job defensively on the right of a back three.
James at centre-back
Nevin highlights the fact Chelsea’s talented youngster was “severely limited” as an attacking threat in the crushing 3-0 league defeat to Leeds United on the weekend.
He thinks Tuchel’s not getting the best out of him at centre-half, albeit he’s a top professional that can do well in that role.
“One of the difficulties is that Reece James is currently playing as one of the three centre-backs and, while he was exceptional against Spurs, in this tough assignment away from home the opportunities to raid forward in the first half were severely limited because of the deep starting position,” Nevin wrote.
“Losing Reece’s quality attacking down the right-hand side is sub-optimal to say the least, but I am pretty sure the boss would prefer to get him on the right of a midfield four as often as possible, if and when the squad allows it.”
Tuchel should shoulder some blame
If Chelsea had no other centre-back available against Leeds, then using James in the back three makes sense. However, both Cesar Azpilicueta and Trevoh Chalobah started on the bench.
It’s quite a worrying statement to make when you consider the finances that’s gone into the Blues forward options, but James is easily one of the most offensive threats in the entire squad.
He’s one of the best goal threats in Tuchel’s side when he plays at wing-back, so he should be one of the first names on the team sheet in that specialist position.
If reported centre-back target Wesley Fofana joins from Leicester City, perhaps James can return to his best role.