Reece James can reach new heights with Romelu Lukaku

Chelsea’s 2-0 win over Arsenal was about Romelu Lukaku and how he tore a hole through Gunner’s defense, but the Belgian striker was not the only man to dominate the process.

From the right wing, Reece James absolutely ran the show. He set Lukaku’s opening goal and shot home his own before the break and tore apart the only Arsenal defender who most felt he had any chance of stopping him, Kieran Tierney, with ease.

Emphatic. ?

– Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) August 23, 2021

This was the kind of performance Chelsea fans have felt that James can for several years now, and it looks like the pieces may fall into place for the 21-year-old to take his game to even greater heights in the coming season.

To begin with, the role played by Thomas Tuchel should not be underestimated. His switch to a 3-4-2-1 formation gives James all the freedom in the world to attack, and the hill is at its best when he charges against defenders and goes towards the sideline.

He still has the task of doing his justice defensively, but with Cesar Azpilicueta behind him, James knows he can focus more on creating chances and scoring goals, and in Lukaku he finally has someone in the middle ready to end those chances.

Ever since his days at the academy, James has been known as Chelsea’s best ball overlay and one of the most versatile attacking weapons on the books at Stamford Bridge, but he has not always had statistics to back it up.

For all his abilities, James has managed just two assists in each of the last two Premier League seasons, which pales in comparison to a direct rival like Trent Alexander-Arnold, who managed 20 in the same period.

James’ numbers may not look as impressive, but they do not tell the whole story. Like everyone at Chelsea, he has struggled with the lack of an out-and-out goal scorer in the squad in recent seasons and not having anyone to come up with at the end of his runs.

Just 90 minutes with Lukaku, and we can see that is about to change.

Immediate impact. ?

– Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) August 22, 2021

Against Arsenal, not only was Lukaku there to get to the end of a post from James, but his overall style of play helped bring out the best in the young right-back.

With Lukaku occupying center backs and pulling defenders out of position just with his presence, there was significantly more room where James could work. He would be one-on-one with Tierney and often had an overload with Mason Mount or Kai Havertz as none of the midfielders could afford to come over to help.

Had Rob Holding or Pablo Mari left Lukaku, it would have been game over in the middle, so the Arsenal pair had to play and stick to the striker – a risk that in the end did not yield results.

James was left to run riots, and he did so with nine crosses, four chances created, four shots, one goal and one assist.

It was near perfection from the kid, who got a nervous penalty scream against him waved away during the first half. Apart from that, it was everything Tuchel could have wished for from a defender.

James played as if he had a little chip on his shoulder. After all, he watched as Chelsea tried and failed to sign Achraf Hakimi, arguably the best right-back on the planet, earlier this summer. Tuchel clearly wanted a little more of him.

Tuchel has high hopes for James / Sebastian Frej / MB Media / Getty Images

With Lukaku’s help, James can reach that level. He can continue his development and prove himself as one of the top players in his position.

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