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Captaincy weighing heavy on James as young Blues suffer
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Adam Drury
Reece James was named Chelsea captain in August
Reece James was named Chelsea captain in August

Reece James' nightmare in Chelsea's 4-1 defeat at Newcastle on Saturday has shone a light on his captaincy of the team.

The right-back was a member of a defence that fell apart as the Magpies cruised into a 3-1 lead in the second half before seeing red and exposing his side to Toon's fourth late on.

His first yellow, picked up for kicking the ball away, was an indication of the indiscipline in the Blues' ranks.

As Chelsea look to dust themselves down before the visit of Brighton on Sunday, we consider whether leadership is an issue for boss Mauricio Pochettino to resolve.

Big call

Appointing James as captain in the first place was a brave move by Pochettino, who hoped his most talented homegrown player could help rejuvenate the Blues after last season's disappointment.

But the question must now be asked whether the full-back was the most suitable pick.

He has started just five of Chelsea's 16 matches this season and will now miss another as he serves a ban for Saturday's red card.

And the capitulation at St James' Park was the latest sign of immaturity from a squad that seems to lack solidity and leadership.

Leadership vacuum

That weakness is not just James' issue but a symptom of the way Chelsea have built their squad.

Aged 23, the Cobham graduate was older than all but four of the players to take on Eddie Howe's men and has played more matches for the club than any of his colleagues.

And Pochettino alluded to his inexperienced side learning on the job in a damning assessment of their performance.

The Argentine boss said: "Even if we talk about being a young team, we need to learn.

"We are young but we can not miss this type of opportunity to show our best."

Still delivering

Reece James has only started four league games this season
Reece James has only started four league games this season

Though James has featured in just six league games, his performances have still demonstrated what a talent he is.

Of players to make at least five appearances, the England international ranks fifth in the entire Premier League for big chances created per 90 minutes — easily top among defenders — and sits ninth for expected assists.

The Blues have impressed with their skipper in the side, too, taking points from Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester City when he has been named in the starting XI.

Though Saturday's hammering at Newcastle was a backwards step, James' efforts this season are actually a reminder of just how good he is and how crucial it is that he remains fit.

Trust the process

Chelsea have a very young team
Chelsea have a very young team

Chelsea's recruitment of exclusively young talent means analysis of their efforts must always consider the future rather than the present.

And on the basis they are unlikely to compete at the top of the Premier League for two or three years at least, it makes sense to mould a team that can challenge then rather now.

That is presumably a factor behind Pochettino's decision not to hand the armband to Raheem Sterling or Thiago Silva, who may be past their best by the time their team is hitting its true potential.

There is little doubt that James is central to the club's plans for the foreseeable future and persisting with the captaincy may eventually pay dividends.


Reece JamesChelseaPremier League
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