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Reece James profile: Why this young defender negates Chelsea transfer fears

With so much as 40 players out on loan and many more in their academy, it would be alarming to note that only three Chelsea academy products - Andreas Christensen, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi - have been able to find first team football this season, with none of them able to establish themselves as guaranteed starters.

However, things could soon change for the club's neglected young players. FIFA have penalised the club with a two-window transfer ban for breaches of regulations regarding the transfer and registration of players under the age of 18. Therefore this forthcoming transfer ban may see the Blues dip their fingers into the incredibly rich pockets of youth talent at their disposal, as a means of improving the squad for the 2019/20 season.

One of the players who has flashed his name in lights as one of the potential loanee call-ups is powerful defender Reece James.

The 2018/19 season

A Chelsea player since the age of six, James was awarded a four-year contract at the end of the 2017/2018 campaign and immediately sent to Wigan Athletic for his first loan spell.

The 19 year-old has had a sensational season with the Latics, playing well beyond his years in the highly physical EFL Championship. James has been a mainstay in the Wigan XI, starting 41 of 42 games this season.

The powerhouse prodigy has featured in 31 matches at right-back but as the season has progressed and he has developed, James has moved into a defensive midfield role featuring there 10 times.

This season James has again taken his game to another degree playing at the highest level.

From his 42 championship matches, James has completed 91 successful tackles this season (12th in the Championship), 38 interceptions, 93 clearances, 54 blocks, 39 shots from outside the box, 44 Successful dribbles, 83 aerial duels won, 71% pass accuracy and a massive 71 key passes (1st for a defender and 12th in the league) along with 3 goals and 3 assists.

His form has been so impressive that he was named at centre-back in the EFL Championship team of the season.

What James will bring to Chelsea

Wigan's number 12 is certainly in the mould of an all-round talent. Standing at 182 cm and 82 kg, the teenager is solidly built, lending him suitably to the robust defensive role he is tasked within the Wigan backline. Whilst incredibly strong and physical, James also possesses terrific athletic capabilities, having impressive pace which he uses in closing down attackers without the ball and driving the team up the ground with the ball.

However, James shines most on the pitch with his footballing ability. Assured with the ball at his feet, James dribbles the ball with control and assertion. James also has excellent passing range, while at RB his crossing and delivery into the box is one of his strongest attributes.

His other leading quality is his dangerous ability from free-kicks. The dead ball specialist is lethal whenever the ball is placed close to goal, but also has excellent delivery when not in shooting range.

He is also not afraid to have a hit from long-range, and has the ability to execute, scoring an outrageous goal against Bristol City from 40 yards out with his sweet right foot, smashing the ball into the top right corner. (Watch below)

Video Courtesy of Wigan Athletic

Scoring from the penalty spot this season, winning headers both defensively and offensively, taking corners, it can be argued that there is little James cannot produce on a football field. Of course at 19 James' decision making isn't perfect, with a tendency to sometimes hold on to the ball too long or pick the wrong pass, but that is something that will improve as he gains more experience.

The outside word on James

Wigan manager Paul Cook has been vocal throughout the season in his praise for the Chelsea loanee.

He stated after his stunning goal at Bristol City, Cook said (via Sky Sports): "Reece was outstanding and his goal epitomises where he is as a lad. He is so self-confident, and that is backed up by his ability and work ethic. All season he has been showing people that he has a very strong career ahead of him, and we are delighted to be playing a small part in his progression."

Cook - (via Absolute Chelsea) - has also boasted: “He's player of the month every month, and he's man of the match almost every week. There's nothing else I can say about him. And he's as good a lad as he is a player."

After another impressive performance, Cook told Wigan's official YouTube channel: “We are delighted for Reece, I think it's well publicised that Reece will go on and have a very strong career. His performance today just highlights the fact of how good a player he really is."

Before his induction to the EFL Championship team of year, Cook told Wigan's official YouTube channel: “Reece is just having one of them seasons where I don't think accolades are too far away from him and you know I don't think much affects Reece James… he just keeps going from strength to strength."

Team-mate Danny Fox spoke highly of his teammate after a 1-1 draw with Rotherham, telling Wigan's official YouTube channel: “The young lad in midfield was trop draw, I think he is going to go on to big big things."

Fellow young teammate Beni Baningime, playing alongside James in midfield, also told the club's YouTube channel: “I think Reece is a great player, he can play at right-back (or) centre-mid, he doesn't look out of place, even though he is younger than me he was kind of taking care of me because he's used to this."

Chelsea fans have good reason to cry out for the recall of Reece James and his subsequent inclusion into next year's first-team set up, especially given the Daily Mail have reported that Manchester United have been watching their young star.

With Davide Zappacosta likely sold back to Italy after struggling to find first team football and Emerson still finding his feet in the Premier League, James would provide strong back-up to Chelsea cornerstone fullbacks Marcos Alonso and Cesar Azpilicueta.

An excellent season ongoing for the Englishman who will continue to harbour excitement as he mounts his case for a return to the Blues inner sanctum. So expect to see the name Reece James around Stamford Bridge next season as he continues his rise to stardom in the Premier League.

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Eli Rubenstein Sturgess

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