England national team manager, Gareth Southgate decided to opt against including Chelsea defender Reece James in his upcoming England squad for the World Cup in Qatar which apparently is big news for Graham Potter.
Before the announcement, Southgate did James the honour of notifying him of the exclusion from the squad.
The Chelsea wing-back was optimistic about getting back fit from a knee injury that has kept him out since October but as per Martin Lipton, Southgate does not want to risk the 22-year-old who suffered ligament damage against AC Milan last month.
Graham Potter confirmed that James had begun jogging at Cobham as part of his recovery in Tuesday’s press conference before the League Cup clash with Manchester City. Although personally, the news will undoubtedly be a blow to James, it is probably of some relief to Potter and Chelsea.
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James posted a short statement on his Instagram on Wednesday afternoon in reaction to the news. “Devastated”. The defender began. “The minute I injured my knee, I knew the turnaround to make the World Cup would be tight, but I always felt it was possible.
“I’ve worked harder than I ever thought I could to give myself the best chance of going and truly believed I could help the team. I appreciate there was risk on both sides but it was one I was willing to take.”
The thought of James rushing back to Qatar and potentially re-aggravating an injury before the Blues returned after Christmas was a realistic fear. Now the boost of him being fresh for the second half of the season will be of some comfort for Potter who has been dealing with an ever-increasing injury list.
James’ Chelsea and England teammate Ben Chilwell is also in a similar boat after suffering a hamstring injury that is expected to keep him out until February. N’Golo Kante’s hamstring problem has required surgery, prompting a similar return time to Chilwell. Wesley Fofana is also missing the World Cup with a knee injury of his own, whilst Kepa Arrizabalaga’s strong form has been halted by a foot issue.
Although the World Cup is going to be a disruptive presence for most coaches, Graham Potter might be one of the few welcoming its arrival given Chelsea’s fitness issues and poor form of late.
The boost of having James back fit cannot be understated. Before this latest setback, the Cobham graduate was an outstanding performer in the opening weeks of the season, containing his rise as one of Chelsea’s most important players. An emphatic finish in the 3-0 win over AC Milan in the Champions League and mature defensive displays against Wilfried Zaha and Rafael Leao reflected his talent.
James not only offers mobility and balance to Chelsea’s structure, but his consistent creative threat in the final third is also invaluable to a group that has lacked quality on the ball. His defensive instincts and strength are also vital, given his sublime displays across the past year to help nullify threats like Vinicius Jnr and Son Heung-min.
A six-year deal was penned in early September to secure his long-term future at Stamford Bridge under the new ownership and Potter will need the wingback fit come the new year.