What Chelsea players did after Reece James injury with Graham Potter's transfer task now clear


A stunned silence swiftly travelled around a wet and cold Stamford Bridge. The unthinkable happened. Disaster struck. Reece James was down . What I myself managed to see because of my privileged position in the press box – located behind the dugouts – was James signal to the Chelsea bench that he needed to come off. I said 'disaster' in the opening few lines. It might seem dramatic to a casual reader, but Chelsea supporters know just how much of a blow this could be.

"No, not really. It’s too soon," Chelsea head coach Graham Potter replied when asked if there was an update on James' injury moments after the match . "It's the same area [the knee] so we are concerned. We'll have to see in the next 24/48 hours."

James missed the recently-concluded World Cup after suffering a knee injury against AC Milan back in October. The England international was then ruled out for over two months because of the problem. However, James made his long-awaited return, after an over-eight-week rehabilitation programme, against Bournemouth. The Blues dominated the first-half at Stamford Bridge and looked rejuvenated and refreshed after a month-and-a-half break from club football.

Potter's side were attacking with intent. It could be put down to a number of things. As mentioned, perhaps the side being raring to go after the mid- season break. Maybe it was the 4-3-3 formation Potter surprised people with. Sure, they all helped, but the logical thinking behind their massively improved performance would be because of James' presence in the side. He really is that good.

"Reece is a world-class player," Potter explained after the game. "You can see it from the outside but it's not until you work with him how good he is. He is an incredible player, one who would fit into any team in the world. Any team would miss him."

There was a genuine shock and disappointment going round Stamford Bridge when James was replaced just after the half-time break. It's natural that the mood also makes its way down to the pitch. Chelsea’s players looked rattled and Bournemouth grew into the game. When asked to put his finger on the drop in performance, Potter replied:

"It’s probably a little bit of everything. Reece was playing well and he’s a top player. "As much as we think coaches are magicians, believe you me if you have top players it makes the coach's job a lot easier. You can see the quality Reece brings down that right in the first- half, especially and to see him go off, it affects the stadium, the team, everything.

"That isn't an excuse but we're human beings and he is someone we care a lot about. There is going to be some concern and worry and I think that's natural. Given the results we’ve had too, you want to try and hold on to your win and I think that affected our performance in the second-half.”

Potter is right: it cannot be an excuse. Fingers crossed this isn’t the case but Chelsea could be missing the brilliant James for a lengthy period once again and they need to make sure they are equipped to deal with it this time. Cesar Azpilicueta has been a brilliant servant to Chelsea down the years, but the club captain isn't what he used to be; particularly in an attacking sense. It’s not fair to compare him to James, really, but the gap is so huge.

Chelsea need to act in the January transfer market, that is almost upon us, should James' injury be a serious one. Even if it’s not (fingers crossed, again), then something still needs to be done. Unfortunately for James, muscular injuries seem to be a quite frequent thing. Chelsea cannot afford as significant a drop off down the right-hand side than there currently is.

The next few weeks are going to be huge for Chelsea in so many ways. We will find out the significance of the latest injury to James. We will see how Potter and his side are able to improve – if at all – after showing really encouraging signs against Bournemouth. The January transfer window, as always, will be huge to the club as well.

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