Chelsea fooled Leicester with Reece James tactic but Thomas Tuchel should avoid repeating it – Daniel Childs


Chelsea will be thrown back into the Premier League fire on Saturday lunchtime as the current league leaders hope to win at the King Power Stadium for the first time in four years.

There are natural connections between Leicester and Chelsea, be that in the dugout with Brendan Rodgers or on the pitch with Ben Chilwell and N’Golo Kante.

There is also the clear narrative link with Frank Lampard’s final Premier League game in charge at Chelsea being at the King Power Stadium back in January, as his predecessor Tuchel aims to fare much better.

But away from the narrative, the tactical dynamic of Saturday’s test is equally intriguing.

Back in May, Chelsea had the rare prospect of facing the same opponent twice in the space of four days as the Blues clashed with The Foxes in the FA Cup Final and the Premier League.

Likely Tuchel’s lowest point so far at Chelsea came at Wembley with Youri Tielemans long-range strike clinching the FA Cup and leaving the Blues despondent heading into the rematch which would be defining for both clubs chasing Champions League qualification.

Tuchel triumphed in the rematch as goals from Antonio Rudiger and Jorginho lead Chelsea to their final win of the Premier League season to effectively clinch fourth spot.

Although personnel varied in both games, one tactical decision Tuchel stuck with on both occasions was to field Reece James as a right-sided centre back rather than as a wingback. This choice by Tuchel was seemingly done in an effort to counteract the speed of Jamie Vardy behind Chelsea’s defence.

In both games, Vardy was pretty well marshalled, with James’ mobility being key in limiting Leicester chances to expose Chelsea from the right-hand side.

Admittedly Tielemans’ winning goal did stem from the 21-year-old losing possession as Chelsea attempted to build up from a deeper position, and his natural threat further up the pitch was lost as Tuchel’s men lacked the required creativity to change the game.

Tuchel has consistently shown his intelligence to vary approach dependent on the opposition, as seen with the use of wingbacks moving into more central areas, which we have covered in-depth before.



Thomas Tuchel moved Reece James into a centre-back role against Leicester back in May.
Thomas Tuchel moved Reece James into a centre-back role against Leicester back in May.

This tactical ploy might be tempting for Tuchel to repeat on Saturday to counteract the speed of Vardy and Barnes which could cause harm, but doing so would likely limit one of his most vital attacking threats.

James created Chelsea’s last Premier League goal at home to Burnley before the international break and his attacking numbers so far this term have been nothing short of outstanding.

Only Mohamed Salah, Michail Antonio and Jamie Vardy have been directly involved in more Premier League goals this season than James, with him netting four goals and making three assists in his seven appearances this term via OptaJoe.

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Chelsea’s academy superstar also has the accolade this season of being the player with the most created chances from inside the box in the Premier League according to Squawka.

As Chelsea enter a run of games that will be crucial to their title aspirations, the increased creativity James offers will be invaluable. Also when you consider the return of Romelu Lukaku from injury and trying to best utilise the goalscoring prowess the club invested £98 million into over the summer transfer window.

Follow our CareFreeChelsea writer Daniel Childs on Twitter to get involved in the discussion and give us your thoughts in the comments section.





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