Chelsea manager Frank Lampard has hinted that he could use 19-year-old Reece James in a midfield role in the future.
James impressed while on loan at Wigan Athletic last season, leading to Chelsea fans calling for him to be part of the club’s first-team under Frank Lampard.
His implementation into Chelsea’s first-team this season was only delayed due to an injury picked up while on international duty with England’s U20s in the summer.
Where will James play for Chelsea? Five things to know…
- Reece James impressed last season on loan at Wigan Athletic.
- The teenager featured at both right-back and in midfield for the Latics.
- James has played nine games for Chelsea’s first-team this season.
- The 19-year-old made his full Premier League debut at right-back against Crystal Palace on Saturday.
- But Frank Lampard has admitted James could also feature in midfield for Chelsea in the future.
James made his full Premier League debut in Chelsea’s 2-0 win over Crystal Palace, starting at right-back ahead of club captain Cesar Azpilicueta.
The teenager impressed, keeping Wilfried Zaha relatively quiet, after scoring the equaliser in Chelsea’s 4-4 draw with Ajax in the Champions League adding to calls for him to permanently replace Azpilicueta at right-back.
And while Lampard admits James is very much a right-back, the Chelsea manager has not ruled out playing the teenager in midfield – where he featured at times for Wigan last season.
“Right-back would be his favoured position, whether it be there, right wing-back or right of a three,” he told reporters.
“As he’s coming into the team, you’d see him there but he does have that all-round game that he could handle playing centrally in midfield if needs be.
“At the moment we’ve got good players in there who are used to playing in there anyway, but he could always do that as he matures through his career.”
While Lampard has eluded to James playing in midfield, it’s likely the teenager would only make the move on rare occasions. Chelsea currently have a wealth of midfield options including the recently returning N’Golo Kante, who must fight alongside Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic, Mason Mount and Ross Barkley for a limited number of spaces – not to mention Ruben Loftus-Cheek when the Englishman returns from injury.
Whereas at right-back, James could very quickly usurp Azpilicueta as Chelsea’s starting option, with the Spaniard having looked off-pace at times this season.
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Lampard explains why he chose James over Azpilicueta
James’ start against Palace on Saturday brought to an end a 73-game run of consecutive Premier League matches for Azpilicueta. It was the longest current run of starts in the Premier League, but Lampard was more focused on resting the Spaniard with big games ahead.
“He [Azpilicueta] took it, as I thought he would do, as a perfect professional and it was not a problem,” he added.
“He wants to play, of course he does, but I think he also understands the quality of Reece.
“He’s played every game barring the Carabao Cup, and every minute of the games, so I don’t think it’s the worst for him to have a bit of a rest and now he can go away and have a rest.
“We’ve got massive games coming up after the break.”
After the international break, Chelsea return to action away at Manchester City, who will be looking to keep their title hopes alive – currently sitting one point behind the Blues in fourth and nine behind leaders Liverpool.