Reece James went off injured before halftime in Chelsea’s Premier League game against Brighton Hove Albion in 2021’s last fixture.
His injury is a big blow to title-aspirants Chelsea who have had injuries and long spells out to N’golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic, Romelu Lukaku, a season-ending injury to left wing-back Ben Chilwell and a fair few amongst COVID related absences. So what’s the update on James’ current injury?
The Chelsea right-back has suffered a torn hamstring in that game against Brighton. While it has been reported that, fortunately, James will NOT require surgery to repair the torn hamstring, he is expected to be out for a period of 6-8 weeks as he recovers from the injury.
Previous injury to the area could be a predisposing factor to developing a tear of this kind and James did have to miss nearly 3 weeks with a ‘thigh strain’ 12 months ago, which may have contributed.
It remains of key importance that he undergoes a tailored rehabilitation program and is slowly eased back into action as failing to do so, combined with his explosive acceleration style of play, could lead to a recurrence of the tear.
This suggests that the 6-8 week recovery period plus a spell of stepping up training and into match fitness means it could be March before James starts and plays a full 90 minutes again for Chelsea – a huge blow given his electric start to the season and importance to the side.
James’s Injury record
James has been injured six times since the beginning of the 2019/20 season, with most injuries involving his ankles. In June 2019, he suffered an ankle injury that kept him out until September. The fullback did not suffer an injury that kept him out for a prolonged period of time until nearly a year before his injury this campaign, in late December of 2020. It saw him miss three games.
This hamstring injury could be his second-longest spell on the sidelines, missing around nine games.
The injury is a hamstring tear for James that doesn’t require surgery but will likely see him on the sidelines for 6-8 weeks.
His injury record shows a recurring ankle issue and he’ll hope that his hamstring injury doesn’t continue to bother him as well, in the future. With training to return to full fitness and patient reintegration into the side, it could be longer before we see James start games regularly again.
Given how vitally important James is to the Chelsea side and their style of play in the wing-back setup, this is a huge blow especially given first-choice left wing-back Chilwell has suffered a season-ending ACL injury.
While Cesar Azpilicueta can fill in at right wing-back, he lacks the dynamism and end product of James in this role while still being defensively solid. Both Callum Hudson-Odoi and Pulisic have the pace and energy to play the role in games requiring Chelsea to be on the front foot for the majority of the game.
That said, recalling Dujon Sterling from loan, who spent pre-season with Chelsea and played the right wing-back position for them in some of their pre-season games, might still be required as specialist cover unless their solution to the left wing-back problem involves signing a player versatile enough to cover on the right when needed as well like Joakim Maehle or Sergino Dest.
James, Tuchel and Chelsea fans will be hoping he can put the issue behind him fully and return for the crucial final 3 months of the season and play a role in challenging for cup competitions and in pushing for their highest league finish since the 2016/17 title-winning season.