Chelsea

Reece James should be a midfield option for Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea

Tom Gott
Reece James has what it takes to be a midfielder
Reece James has what it takes to be a midfielder / Michael Regan/Getty Images
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On Sunday, Gareth Southgate got one step closer to achieving his ultimate dream - assembling an England team made up entirely of right-backs.

Kieran Trippier started on the left and Trent Alexander-Arnold was a midfielder, although an underwhelming showing from the Liverpool man saw him restored to his natural position at the break and replaced with Chelsea's Reece James.

It was a job which suited James perfectly as he already has experience of competitive football in midfield, having played their regularly during his loan spell with Wigan Athletic in the 2018/19 campaign.

He arrived at Wigan as a right-back and was used in that role for the first half of the season, but as manager Paul Cook realised his side were facing a relegation battle he decided to switch the Chelsea loanee into midfield to ensure his versatile skill set was not wasted at the back.

The belief was that James was too good to be used as a defender in a poor team. His physicality and athleticism were dominant, his passing was outstanding and his threat from range - he bagged two goals in his last five games for the Latics - made him far too important to Wigan, who went on to survive in the Championship.

James returned to Chelsea that summer amid a wave of praise from Wigan fans, many of whom were unironically describing the then teenager as the best player the club had ever seen - a reputation he earned in part as a midfielder.

Since his breakthrough into top-flight football James has been his usual right-back self, but his foray into midfield for England - in which he rattled the crossbar with a screamer of a shot after just a few minutes - proved that he is still capable of playing the role.

James' all-round attributes make him fantastic in so many positions - Cook once joked that the youngster would probably be the best table-tennis player or golfer in the country as well - and Thomas Tuchel would be wise to take advantage of that at Chelsea.

The German is well stocked in midfield these days after bringing in Saul Niguez on deadline day. The Spaniard joins Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic and N'Golo Kante as genuine first-team options, with Ruben Loftus-Cheek also looking for minutes, and James should now be added to the list.

The 21-year-old offers something unique to Chelsea's midfield. He has an eye for defending like Kante and a vision for a pass like Jorginho, but unlike the rest, actually brings a genuine goal threat.

Chelsea don't have a physical powerhouse capable of advancing play at an elite level. It's for that reason that many wanted Loftus-Cheek to be given a chance, but that ship appears to have sailed following Saul's arrival.

James can be the dynamic force that Chelsea have been craving for years now, and Tuchel must consider using him in that role when the time is right.

It's important to stress that James will not be permanently leaving his right-back berth, and nor should he. He's an unreal talent in that position and has been feasting this season already, suggesting the best is yet to come from the Englishman.

Reece James
James tore Arsenal apart from right-back / Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

However, with Cesar Azpilicueta and Callum Hudson-Odoi both looking for minutes at wing-back - a position that James has made his own - the option is there to push him forwards into midfield and give opposition defenders a test for which they will not have prepared.

James is good enough to make a genuine impact in any position on the pitch (the recent Liverpool game even showed he'd make a decent goalkeeper), but when he's not shining at right-back, Tuchel should consider deploying the star boy in midfield.

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