Thomas Tuchel enters Chelsea Premier League title race amid Reece James return

Thomas Tuchel has admitted the absence of Chelsea’s first-choice full-backs is the ‘biggest reason’ as to why the Blues have fallen in the Premier League title race despite Burnley’s latest win.

The Blues have maintained their resilient form since Roman Abramovich put up the big sign for sale outside Stamford Bridge more than a week ago.

First of all, their spirited performance in the Carabao Cup final coupled with the two performances against Luton and Burnley in different competitions demonstrates the improved mentality of the team.

But is it any surprise that in the aforementioned three matches, Reece James played a role after his nine-week injury absence?

His dominant threat down the right paid off at Turf Moor at the weekend as the 22-year-old opened the scoring on Saturday with his low-flying attempt that tucked into Nick Pope’s far corner.

James then also provided an assist for one of the other three goals and his overall performance, as well as receiving the usual praise from manager Thomas Tuchel, drew big Trent Alexander-Arnold comparison ahead of the FIFA World Cup while Gabby Agbonlahor feels he should start over. main competitor in Qatar.

“We missed him for so long that we almost got used to it,” Tuchel said in his post-match press conference in Lancashire. “I think it was like nine weeks and we played something like 25 games in that time.

“We were constantly trying to find solutions and we found solutions as a team, and we managed to win games and even trophies during this period.

Reece James impressed for Chelsea against Burnley (Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images)

“But once he’s back and playing three times, and the first time since the start, you see what we’ve been missing. Huge quality and it’s very impressive how decisive he is.”

Kai Havertz, who received an assist from the right-back in question, also gave his verdict on how he thinks his team-mate has fared in this run of encounters.

“He’s a special player for us, a very important player for us,” Havertz told Chelsea internal media. “He’s a full-back, but he also scores. He’s a great character and a very good player.”

With all the praise swirling around James, it’s not hard to conclude why the current World and European champions fell dramatically in December 2021 in the title race with points dropped in numerous matches, including Brighton, Everton and others.

Now reflecting on what went wrong and why Chelsea’s title challenge went off the rails, Tuchel pointed to the absence of James and Ben Chilwell as the ‘biggest reason’ for the drop.

“I’ve said it many times, I think the biggest challenge for us this season right now is key player injuries and long-term key player injuries and Reecey is one of the key players, so than Ben Chilwell,” Tuchel said in the embargoed portion of his post-match press conference.

“We had players out for many weeks and it cost us. On top of that there was the COVID situation where we struggled crazy at times where we got to Wolverhampton with 14 payers and stuff like that.

“Yeah, I think that’s the main reason for the period when the gap opened up because we need everyone. Having those kind of players available doesn’t mean they’re automatically always on the field, but it does something for the group because everyone has to fight for it and then you create an atmosphere where you are better than the individuals and you start to improve.

“That’s the main reason. We’re still in third place, we’re still in the FA Cup, we’re still in the Champions League, so there’s no need to be completely disappointed, absolutely not. We still have a lot to fight. The race continues. »

Looking ahead to Norwich and with Marcos Alonso out with Covid, James is in line to start another game on his return from injury, but Tuchel is more than wary of wanting to ‘abuse’ his star player.

The Chelsea manager contemplated: “Marcus is still sick, not very sick, but he still has a few [Covid] symptoms and is totally unable to train.

“The good thing is I think it makes a huge difference for Reece if he plays 65 or 70 minutes or 90 minutes which is now ideal as we have four days in between which should give us the opportunity to play in Norwich.

“Of course we have to be careful and we can’t abuse it.”

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