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Reece James proved at least some Chelsea defenders still want to play for the club by giving a masterclass against Leicester.
And he also showed he isn't just England's best right back after bossing much of the second half of Thursday night's 1-1 draw in midfield. With Antonio Rudiger playing his last game at Stamford Bridge and FA Cup Final no-show Andreas Christensen nowhere to be seen, James took centre stage.
And after James Madison's early opener for Leicester, he conjured an equaliser for Marcos Alonso with a lovely piece of skill. James is already Gareth Southgate's first choice on the right of the England defence, despite some fierce competition.
But the 22-year-old is so talented, and was so good in this game, he ended up playing in the heart of the engine room. James now has six goals and nine assists in all competitions this season. And the only defender who has been responsible for more goals in the Premier League this term is Trent Alexander-Arnold, who has played over a thousand more minutes.
No wonder incoming Blues owner Todd Boehly, watching on from the stands, wants to give James a new contract. He was head and shoulders above everyone else in this game, including Boehly's countryman Christian Pulisic, who missed a sitter that would have won it. After the match Thomas Tuchel was left to wonder what might have been if Chelsea had been able to call on the likes of James and N'golo Kante more often this season.
Both players have spent significant time out injured and at times Chelsea have struggled as a result. After the game Tuchel described France World Cup winner Kante as just as important to his side as Virgil Van Dijk is to Liverpool and Kevin De Bruyne to Manchester City. But James is not far behind him when it comes to being a key player for the Blues, and Tuchel has tipped him to follow in Kante's footsteps.
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The Chelsea boss said: "Is Reece the new N'Golo? Not yet, given the history of N’Golo and the titles and the history of what he did with the club and the national team. Success-wise, not yet, but he has everything that is takes to be one of the very best. It is a long way to go for Reece. He has some incredible potential and he has the ability, the foundation, the body, the physique, the mindset to make his way to the very top but there is still a long way to go.
"We will support him and we will push him. We will look into the season. I think we can do better. I think there is not a lot wrong. It is margins. But, like I said, we will look into the season. It is not a moment where we have analysed everything and found the answer because I would have analysed it before. We struggle obviously with efficiency, with goalscoring records, with consistency, with determination and position in the box against teams that defend deep.
"But we have lacked huge quality like N’Golo, Ben Chilwell, Reece James, if you have seen him in the last weeks. It is maybe a miracle we are in the top three when we have been without these key players. Because we have missed them for weeks and weeks and weeks."
- Chelsea FC
- Thomas Tuchel
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