Reece James - Scouting Report
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When it comes to young, English talent, these are exciting times – and in no position is that more apparent than at right-back. Trent Alexander-Arnold, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, James Justin, Matty Cash, Tariq Lamptey, Max Aarons and Chelsea’s Reece James promise a bright future for the national team. 

James, who impressed on loan at Wigan in 2018/19 while gaining a full season’s experience in the Championship, showed upon his return to Chelsea that he was ready to play in the Premier League – and at the top end of the table. Under Thomas Tuchel in 2020/21, James is continuing to improve and has worked his way into the international set-up. 

James already looks close to the complete full-back. He is a technical footballer, and much of his most eye-catching work comes on the front foot. An attacking right-back who strides forward purposefully with the ball and can beat an opponent, James is always looking to get into a position to put a ball into the penalty area. He is adept at taking defenders on around the outside by pushing the ball ahead and beating his opponent for pace, but he also has the close control to wriggle his way out of trouble – a useful skill for a central midfielder, and one that makes him an even better full-back. There are occasions when his first touch lets him down slightly, but he manages to resist pressure with a drop of the shoulder, a quick change of direction or even a nutmeg to leave his opponent behind. 

James’ former manager, Frank Lampard, called the right-back a natural crosser of the ball, and that is certainly the strongest aspect of his game. Much like Alexander-Arnold at Liverpool, he provides a consistent threat down the right flank, able to put balls into the middle with a variety of techniques and, as a result, from a variety of positions. 

He is most dangerous when crossing from in line with the edge of the penalty area, when he has been afforded the space to bend his cross around the nearest defender. He strikes across the ball to generate significant outswinging curl, so he can bend the ball into the area between the goalkeeper and the last line of defenders for a teammate to attack. 

His technical ability extends to direct free-kicks and corners, and he retains accuracy with his dead-ball technique even when striking with power. He doesn’t provide the same level of set-piece threat as Alexander-Arnold, who is among the best in the world, but there are positive similarities between them as right-backs with the class to play in central midfield and superb crossing ability. 

When defending, James prefers to show his opponent on the outside and use his body to manoeuvre the attacker off the ball. He therefore needs to do two things more consistently: he must not attempt to anticipate his opponent going around the outside, because he risks leaving too much space on the inside for them to dart into; and he also needs to stand off a little more, because particularly quick wingers could eliminate him with one big touch and expose the player behind him. 

Due to the high and wide position James is asked to take up, he often finds himself in an advanced position when Chelsea lose the ball, and so he is regularly involved in their pressing high up the pitch. He does this with enthusiasm and commitment, and selects his angle of approach well, cutting off passing lines as well as showing play towards his teammates – who, under Tuchel, attempt to crowd out the opposition by committing lots of players to a compact zone of the pitch. James plays an important role in these attempts to turn the ball over high up the pitch. 

James is unquestionably a special talent with an extremely bright future. As is the case with so many of England’s young right-backs, he is most definitely worth getting excited about. 

 


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