Reece James is injured yet again. The Chelsea full-back has seen his season come to an end as Frank Lampard has confirmed that the hamstring injury he picked up against Real Madrid a fortnight ago will result in him missing the Blues’ final six Premier League matches.
Fans are greatly concerned about James as he is one of the club’s best players and a jewel of the Chelsea academy. Since his breakthrough at Stamford Bridge in 2019-20, James has sustained 13 injuries: Three ankle injuries, six muscular injuries, two knee injuries and the rest being various knocks.
This has seen him miss 52 matches of first-team football and that will rise to 58 at the end of term. To miss that much football to injury by the age of 23 is hugely worrying, especially when James is a key player for the Blues and widely seen as England’s best right-back.
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He missed out on the Three Lions squad for the World Cup due to injury which was a crushing blow for him and Gareth Southgate, and now that he has suffered another serious injury, you have to wonder how this will affect him reaching his potential.
James’ mastery in both attacking and defending has made him one of the highest-rated players in the game and even the brightest wingers in the world know how difficult he is to come up against. Real Madrid’s Vinicius Jr and AC Milan’s Rafael Leao have both named James as the toughest opponent they’ve faced. Given that they are two of the most technically gifted wingers in the world, there is no greater compliment that James could receive.
With their battles coming in the Champions League, James has more than proved himself as one of the world’s best and for him to have such a horrific injury record before the age of 25 means that he is missing out on crucial development of his game and it will hamper his chances of reaching his true potential.
Questions have to be asked of Chelsea’s training routine because James managed a full campaign at senior level with Wigan Athletic in 2018-19, announcing himself to the world with a series of strong performances in the Championship. His contributions with the Latics saw him scoop up several of the club’s end of season awards including Player of the Year. James came through that season unscathed with 45 out of 46 games in the Championship under his belt, and it was only after his return to Chelsea that the injury troubles began.
As this season will go down as one to forget for Chelsea, the next course of action with James might not be what fans want to hear. Perhaps the full-back should be given all the time he needs to recover from his latest problem and not be rushed back into training because at this point he is at great risk of having these issues recur for the rest of his career. As well as this, the club should also evaluate the training schedule to perhaps see if the intensity is having an impact on his physical health.
That being said, James has always seemed to return to the team stronger and without any initial complications, which is a testament to his character and the work he puts in during his rehabilitation. But with this season seemingly done and dusted for Chelsea, a lengthy period of rest could serve James well ahead of a huge season at Stamford Bridge in 2023-24. And with Chelsea unlikely to be involved in European competition next year, a more relaxed schedule could be a blessing in disguise for James and he might actually be able to get through one season at Chelsea without being forced out of action.