Frank Lampard has made it totally clear that he’s prepared to give youth a chance, if they’re up to it. The first signs of that were shown over in Ireland as the Blues kickstarted their pre-season schedule with a pair of games – a whole host of names featured across both matches from your Billy Gilmours to your Kurt Zoumas. Having had the pleasure of seeing first-hand what Mason Mount could do as Derby County manager last season, Lampard also saw glimpses of two fellow Chelsea loan stars that too operated in the Championship. Tammy Abraham netted 26 goals, including two in three appearances against the legendary midfielder’s side. Though, there was also another name building up a reputation of his own and that was Reece James.
The 19-year-old’s impressive performances at Wigan Athletic saw him pick up a trio of awards at the end of season party – winning both Player of the Year accolades as well as the Goal of the Season – he plays right-back… He has clearly caught the attention of the new Chelsea boss as The Standard report that Davide Zappacosta could be allowed to leave the club before the season opener so that James can be promoted to the first-team setup to back up Cesar Azpilicueta. It would be fair to suggest that Zappacosta’s time in West London has been somewhat a failure. After joining the club from Torino in a £23m transfer, he has gone on to only make 44 appearances – of which 13 were starts in the Premier League. The Italian international has been playing during pre-season but that may be down to the fact that James has been sidelined with injury after being stretched off in England Under-20’s final Toulon Tournament match earlier this summer. It is expected to not be as bad as first thought meaning Chelsea could be free to shift Zappacosta in the coming weeks.
The case for James is intriguing. For Wigan last term, he picked up seven Man of the Match awards from 45 appearances. In that time he also bagged three goals (one of which won an award) and laid on three more through assists. The 19-year-old averaged a rating of 7.10 which rated out higher than both Zappacosta (6.39) and Azpilicueta (7.01) albeit in a tier below the top-flight. James also has his age on his side, being only 19 compared to the former Torino man who is 27. Zappacosta has barely played for the Blues so it would make a ton of sense to get rid whilst they still can. James will probably get a new contract in the same way that Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Mount did this summer which will be a boost to his confidence. Furthermore, sitting behind the long-serving and experienced Azpilicueta can only do wonders for his development. Plus, the Spaniard is able to play centre-back so who knows, a few months into the season and we could see James breakthrough.
It could mirror the career of Trent Alexander-Arnold who has become quite the star over in Merseyside after making his debut in 2016. He has quickly come on leaps and bounds winning the Champions League and starring for England in a World Cup. There are comparisons to be made here, both players have come through their respective club’s academies and both have slowly risen up the England Lions international ranks, Alexander-Arnold going from Under-16s to the senior foray whilst James has been part of the Under-18s to the Under-20s. Jurgen Klopp took a chance with the young prospect and with Lampard’s willingness to do the same we could see the same sort of rise happen here.