When the news surfaced of Chilwell needing surgery on his ACL injury we didn’t even fathom that potentially another injury of that magnitude was right around the corner. Reece James quite literally hobbled off of the pitch and was seen after the game walking only with the aid of some crutches. The injury is rumoured to be his hamstring and these kinds of injuries can vary in severity.
I’m no insider at the club but I can assume some scans will be done ASAP, probably today or tomorrow. Hamstring injuries can be tedious and are often flared up again if overdone and the normal thing would be to ease Reece back into play slowly. However, with 5 games in the next 17 days this is just not possible. This leaves Tuchel and the team in quite the predicament.
Below is a great post surrounding the possibilities of Reece James’ injury and the different types of recovery times for the different grades of hamstring injuries.
The options remaining at right-wing back now read Azpilicueta, Pulisic and Hudson-Odoi. Two of these aren’t even defenders… Azpilicueta is slowly declining which is saddening for everyone to see but is still a great option at RCB and to see him against the likes of Liverpool and Tottenham at wing back could be dangerous. Pulisic is still adapting to the position and everyone knows with him playing there against the aforementioned teams we could be in serious trouble. Hudson-Odoi didn’t have his finest match today against Brighton but it is evident to see he is more suited to the attacking positions. Both Pulisic and Hudson-Odoi will be in defensive bother trying to mark Mane if they have to play there and this will definitely reduce their attacking output as they would have to deal with a marauding Robertson and Mane.
An injury concern still looms over Andreas Christensen as his back problem flared up again tonight. A back injury like he has usually comes with the need for rest and with the hectic January schedule, it won’t do him any favours continuing to play through the pain. This means Azpilicueta could be forced to play RCB, lessening the options at wing back even further.
The only natural wing back at the club that is fit is Marcos Alonso. Even tonight he was having trouble against Lamptey, imagine the damage that Salah will do come Sunday. The idea was floated around before the game that Tuchel could be getting Reece James adapted to the left wing-back role as a way to prepare him for playing there against Liverpool. Well if that was a tactical plan by Tuchel, that went terribly wrong.
Obviously, we know that Reece James’ scans could all come back positive and he could be fine within a few weeks but what can we do in that time? My thoughts are that Tuchel will use Azpilicueta there against Liverpool to try and stay compact but for the other games throughout January he will use either Hudson-Odoi or Pulisic.
It would be nice if we had maybe Tino Livramento and Tariq Lamptey to replace Reece for the moment but we don’t. There are academy options that fit the profile of a wing back. For example, Dion Rankine is a pacy and dynamic player that has been utilised in this role before in the youth setup. Against Brentford we saw Xavier Simons play there and he put in a decent enough performance to earn some trust from Tuchel. It would be a big risk for academy players to be used in these big matches and I can’t really see it happening apart from the Chesterfield match.
If worst comes to worst and we need to explore the market for wing back options it would be a good idea for Tuchel and his recruitment team to possibly find a player capable of operating on both sides.
Another thorn in the side of a Chelsea side that has been ravaged by Covid and injuries over the past few weeks. The schedule comes under scrutiny and maybe rightly so but now is the time for the team to scrape together a few wins and steady the ship.
Written by Frankie