This summer, the club were heavily linked with right-sided wing-backs, Achraf Hakimi and Adama Traore being two of the main ones.
The links have gone quiet for a few weeks. I don’t question Hakimi’s quality and what he did at Borussia Dortmund and Inter, but he had Erling Haaland and Romelu Lukaku to target.
Having focal players like them makes defenders double up, allowing space down the flanks and in turn leads to the aforementioned duo fighting in the box to get their edge over their markers. They live for goals, and it shows with the standards they keep.
Reece James got his first start of the season today and showed exactly what he can do in that first half.
I wrote in a piece pre kick-off that it was going to be interesting to see how he got on against Bukayo Saka and Kieran Tierney.
It turns out, he had them mostly worrying about defending than attacking him.
Chelsea went ahead in the 15th minute.
The midfielder saw the overlap of James found him early in acres of space.
Lukaku’s first instinct was to turn and get in the six-yard box. The Belgian was then gifted the ball on a plate from James.
The pair did exactly what they needed to do, the goal showing exactly what we had been missing out on last season.
James wasn’t done in the half and doubled the lead.
The ball started off on the left with Marcos Alonso, who tried to play it to Lukaku outside the box.
A slide tackle meant the ball went past him, but fell to the feet of Mason Mount, who like Kovacic saw James overlapping once again.
The England defender took one touch in the box and smashed it into the top corner. Rewatching, it was interesting that the man in the box waiting for the cut back with Lukaku down was the overlapping Alonso on the other side.
I had no problem with the club signing a player with the quality of Hakimi, but it makes a real difference when you have a player that will do all the small things to make wing-backs jobs much easier and add numbers to their goals and assists.
James was, at times last season, playing the ball back or not trying crosses – he tried today.
Last season I felt like he knew players wouldn’t get on the end of it. That’s very different with Lukaku in the team.
James showed last year that he’s a very good right centre-back, but the quality he has going forward shouldn’t be underestimated and needs to be used more this term. He is up there with one of the best crossers in the squad, and we need to take advantage of that quality.
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Away from Chelsea, it was interesting to see the player who decided to leave the club this summer off the back of the Hakimi interest.
Tino Livramento didn’t just start against Man United at 18 years old, he finished the game as Sky Sports’ man of the match as they held United to a 1-1 draw.
He also proved today how good the academy are at producing great right-sided wing-backs and followed in Tariq Lamptey’s shoes, going to a Premier League side rather than being underused or sent out on loan.
Livramento won Chelsea’s academy player of the year last season and deserves this chance.
I understand the club might feel a player is needed just in case we do get an injury to James, and he can’t play all of the matches this season.
But the disappointing thing I took from this was the fact they upset a player in Livramento, who then decided to leave and in the end the club failed to get the man that made the youngster’s decision to leave that much easier.
James against Arsenal showed that he’s more than good enough to create chances and do things needed to help Chelsea battle for trophies.
With just over a week left of the window I don’t feel money should be spent on that area.
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