Frank Lampard’s vision of flying fullbacks at Chelsea, pinning back opposition wingers and providing the bullets for his attack, cost much less than it might have.
Certainly if you consider the £50million it took to secure Ben Chilwell from Leicester in the summer.
Lampard, himself, admits he has been guilty of taking the right-back’s talents for granted, given his remarkable rise since returning from a loan spell at Wigan 18 months ago.
His speed, stamina and lethal crossing have made him one of Chelsea’s most dangerous weapons this season – and seen him establish himself as the most serious threat to Alexander-Arnold in the England team.
Southgate was so impressed with his Three Lions debut last month – even after a petulant red card against Denmark – that he called him straight back up to his next squad, despite the fact James was suspended for two of the three games during this window.
“That’s a bit of inexperience,” said the England manager. “But we were so impressed with the way he played and the way he was through the whole camp that we wanted to build on that and didn’t want to miss the opportunity of working with him.”
Graeme Souness believes he is already complete – even at the age of 20.
“He’s a top player,” the Liverpool legend told Sky Sports. “Given his age, he’s going to get better and better.
“I’ve not talked about his strength, his pace, his delivery, and in terms of defending he looks like he’s got that already. So you can only see him getting better and better.
“You think of the modern game, if you’re playing against this Liverpool team one of the priorities would be trying to stop Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold because the full-back in a modern game isn’t a defender first and foremost, it’s someone who can do a bit of defender but gets up the pitch and when he gets into the attacking third he can deliver on it.
“When you get someone who can defend then what a real bonus that is. I think Reece James is all of that. I think he’s got absolutely everything in his game.
“So for Chelsea it looks like they’ve won the lottery in the full-back positions. He looks like the finished article already at 20.”
Ex-Chelsea and Liverpool defender Glen Johnson goes so far as to say James qualities above and beyond Alexander-Arnold, widely considered the best right back in world football.
“I would say, overall, it’s a toss-up between Trent and Reece James,” he told compare.bet. “It depends on who you’re playing against of course, but I think Reece James is a better defender.
“I think he’s quicker, stronger. Trent is great on the ball, he’s a great footballer, and he’s very smart and a lot wiser than his age suggests. But in international football, you get a lot more time on the ball, so I think Trent would be number one, but Reece would be a fantastic backup.”
James’ flying wing play, in tandem with Chilwell, has given Chelsea a new dimension in attack.
Between them they have five assists in all competitions, with Chilwell providing three. But the dynamic between James and Hakim Ziyech is already proving fascinating, with the Moroccan winger’s ability to cut inside on his left foot, turning defenders inside out as they try to cope with both.
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