Eden Hazard is finally off to Real Madrid, Maurizio Sarri has headed home to Italy to take the hot seat at Juventus, a transfer ban is all but confirmed for this summer – it’s going to be one interesting season for Chelsea.
Next season is so far a big unknown for the Blues, who will be heading into both the Premier League and Champions League without their best player this decade and no new superstars coming their way this summer, but as one door temporarily closes, another promising one opens.
A transfer ban means young players previously sent out on loan could be called upon next season and one name that has a chance to feature is defender Reece James, who shined on loan at Wigan last campaign – winning three of the club’s end-of-season awards.
Swansea City and Brighton have both been linked with a loan move for the youngster recently, while he’s even been mooted as a potential target for Man United. So here are two reasons why Chelsea must keep hold of the 20-year-old this summer and resist the temptation to let him leave…
One thing that made James stand out at Wigan last season was his ease in playing in multiple positions for the Latics. Although naturally a right-back, the Redbridge-born player played 32 times in his favoured position, 13 times in midfield and once at centre-back.
This versatility should see him get plenty of opportunities next season as the youngster can act as cover for various personnel, from Cesar Azpilicueta at right-back to N’Golo Kante in midfield. Throw in the fact Chelsea’s next manager may not yet know what his best formation is, and James could prove to be something of an unsung asset.
Chelsea tend to go deep into the cup competitions in any given year, last term reaching two finals alone, so there should certainly be chances for James to get minutes if he can show in training he’s at the required standard.
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There is always a debate between whether loan moves or sticking around the first team better aids a player’s development and certainly in recent years, Chelsea have nearly always opted for the former strategy. But James can benefit massively by learning from senior figures in the Chelsea squad next season.
The likes of Azpilicueta and David Luiz can prove to be important mentors to James and teach him the ropes of defending at Premier League level, especially as last season was mostly marked by his impact going forward – 1.6 key passes per match versus just 0.9 interceptions in the Championship.
And that certainly feels more valuable than another year in the second tier, with James already proving himself at that level. Maybe Brighton would offer him a greater chance of regular Premier League football next term, but there’s no guarantee of that either if their campaign goes sour, and at Stamford Bridge he’d at least be working with top-level talent on daily basis in training.
Surely James’ development next season is better served as part of the first-team squad.