‘Got that wrong’: Pundit thinks Tuchel should’ve played 22-year-old Chelsea star in midfield vs Wolves

Tim Howard felt Thomas Tuchel needed to start Reece James in midfield for Chelsea against Wolverhampton Wanderers yesterday.

Speaking on NBC Sports, the former Everton goalkeeper questioned why James began as a central defender rather than as a central midfielder.

Reece not in the right place

The 22-year-old lined up alongside Thiago Silva and Antonio Rudiger in the defensive trio, despite Trevoh Chalobah being present on the day.

Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images

Instead, Chalobah moved into midfield, a position he is very well acquainted with.


Tuchel was forced to tinker with his team due to the number of positive covid cases and injuries concerns in the camp.

Yet, Howard believed this particular tactical tweak was ill-advised.

He said: “When I initially looked at the team sheet, I thought Reece James would go into the centre of midfield next to (N’Golo) Kante.

“In fact, I actually thought Tuchel got that wrong because you could put Chalobah as one of the centre-backs, get (Cesar) Azpilicueta out to the wing-back and put Reece James in that holding midfield role, where he has played before.”

Blues in bandages

James did feature in midfield away to Zenit St. Petersburg in the Champions League, but only because the four first-choice players in that department were absent.

He did well on that night and his skills could’ve come in handy again on Sunday.

As transpired, the England international was almost needed in the middle anyway.

Chalobah unfortunately only lasted 45 minutes after picking up a knock, adding to the ever-growing list of names being checked into Cobham’s medical centre.

Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

Saul Niguez entered the fray in place of his wounded colleague and arguably enjoyed his best game in a Chelsea shirt.

Mateo Kovacic also made a small cameo, having been absent since October due to injury and covid isolation.

However, this was at the expense of Hakim Ziyech, who had to be removed because of a calf problem.

The Blues simply cannot win at the moment, in every sense of the phrase.

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Nathaniel is a football journalist who graduated from the University of Derby. He has worked at Burton Albion as part of their media team for two years. Nathaniel produces regular articles for the club’s official website and match-day programme. He covered the 2018 U20 Women’s World Cup in Brittany and has reported from grounds ranging from non-league up to the Premier League.