In London, The first 53 minutes were perfect for Chelsea.
Two goals in the first half and a significantly improved attack performance had washed away the taste of the three defeats prior to the World Cup. But the hero had done more than that; he had come back. The Blues were cruising and Reece James was back. There was no chance for that.
Therefore, the exquisite build-up to Kai Havertz’s opening goal, a returning Christian Pulisic bringing his USMNT form to the blue and white, or the enduring quality of Thiago Silva will not be the lasting memories of this game. Rather, it was when James once more pointed to that knee. West London held its collective breath.
It also diminished the impact of what would have been a welcome moment of reset for their boss just as pressure was beginning to mount on the Stamford Bridge dugout. This started with Chelsea since they were hardly ever seen during the waning days of Thomas Tuchel’s reign or the hesitant first steps under Graham Potter, with all the caveats that come with victory over an extremely average opponent in Bournemouth.
Potter’s initial adjustments since taking charge in west London have been predictably erratic. When it works, like when Sterling emerges as a left wing back, his changes may appear to have been made by a coaching superhuman. Perhaps it was not the right time for anything more outrageous following the string of defeats to Arsenal, Manchester City, and Newcastle. Put the better players—than Chelsea’s Bournemouth’s—where they feel most at ease and watch what happens. From goalkeeper to center forward, every player could reasonably feel they had been deployed in their best position. Even beyond that, the mixture was just about perfect.
Although Jorginho may transfer the ball elegantly, Treebeard has the faster first step. Denis Zakaria, a Juventus loanee who had appeared destined for the January trash bin, was more than happy to perform his running for him as the Premier League season got underway. From his center forward position, Havertz will naturally move to deeper positions. He left a space that Christian Pulisic and Raheem Sterling were ready to take advantage of.
James, who had just returned from an injury that had prevented him from growing his name at the World Cup, was the unseen thread that bound this team together. In the worst cases, it appeared Chelsea was in a holding pattern in the weeks following his initial injury against AC Milan in October, waiting for the return of their finest player to become anything resembling an attacking force. How much better do they seem when James is supporting them? seemed to be the get-out question as Havertz, Sterling, Mount, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang struggled. Stamford Bridge briefly had a response.
Kepa Arrizabalaga’s initial thought upon receiving the ball was to quickly pass it to his right back. Chelsea freely flew to the right. James maintained his width, stretching Bournemouth’s back five so that Sterling had driving lanes and Mount had passing opportunities in the spaces in the half-space. Without James in the starting lineup, the openings for his teammates to take advantage of would not have opened up, even if he hadn’t made the decisive pass in the lead-up to Havertz’s goal.
James was available whenever a teammate required help finding a man in space
Every cross that protruded from his boot begged to be struck. Just before halftime, 50% of Chelsea’s attacks had originated in the right third of the field; given that disproportionate percentage, it appeared amazing that the percentage wasn’t higher. James was slanting the pitch in his direction.
His hands were then suddenly on his knees. He sank to the ground, not seeming to have the slightest sliver of doubt that this was his game. No overt interaction or new development in the current problem had led to his departure. He only had to point to that knee once more to send Stamford Bridge into five-alarm mode. Potter added, “We’ll have to wait and watch in the following 24 to 48 hours. “It’s unfortunate that we lost him so abruptly.”
“Reece is a professional athlete. You can tell from the outside, but you won’t truly understand how good he is till you work with him. He was capable of joining any squad on the globe. He’d be missed by any team, “After the game, Potter stated.
“He is obviously disappointed. We’re currently at a point where all we can do is hope that it won’t be as bad.” To make matters worse, Potter continued by saying that James had just a few minutes left before taking a well-earned rest when he hobbled out of the tunnel. He wasn’t supposed to play 90 minutes tonight, but rather 60 or 65, as a build-up to what he had already done.
With James still on the field, Chelsea had done enough to win the match, but once he left, the game got more competitive. The Reece incident “hurt us a little bit,” as Potter said. Bournemouth once more gained control of territory and possession. If Ryan Christie had scored in the 79th minute, the tension at Stamford Bridge might have returned.
What occurred right after was more enlightening for Potter. Sterling received the ball in a favorable spot on the right flank. He stood and waited for assistance that would never come as he faced Jordan Zemira. His right shoulder would have been bombed by James. There’s no doubt that Cesar Azpilicueta’s heart and mind were willing. His legs weren’t always there at 33. James could not be replaced, and Chelsea will have a very difficult time finding another right back in January who is both talented enough to even come close to becoming their No. 24 and ready to commit to a backup role.
Even though Chelsea is three points ahead, it is hard to blame them for worrying that they may soon find themselves in the same situation as before the World Cup: waiting for the return of their star player before they can perform at their peak level. They are awaiting the results of James’ scans.
Injury concern for Reece James is “an utter disaster”
Reece James was forced to leave his Chelsea homecoming game due to injury after missing England’s World Cup campaign, and Hoddle called it an “awful nightmare.” Due to a knee injury received on October 11 while playing for Real Madrid in the Champions League versus Milan, the right-back missed the Qatar 2022 finals.
James played in his first match since starting training again at the beginning of December during Chelsea’s match against Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge. He did, however, only play for 51 minutes before suffering another injury, this time with Chelsea leading 2-0.