‘Integral’: Rio Ferdinand says Graham Potter missed his ‘most influential' Chelsea player today

Rio Ferdinand suggested that the result between Chelsea and Arsenal could’ve changed had Reece James been fit.

Speaking on BT Sport after the Gunners secured victory at Stamford Bridge, Ferdinand shared his sympathies for Graham Potter for being without James and numerous other key players.

Potter assembled a line up against Mikel Arteta that clearly had to cover over the handful of missing pieces in the puzzle.

Cesar Azpilicueta just his sixth Premier League game of the season at right-back in a back-four due to the absence of James.

Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Marc Cucurella returned at left-back, following Ben Chilwell’s hamstring set-back in mid-week.

Thiago Silva and Trevoh Chalobah combined as central defenders, with Wesley Fofana still undergoing treatment for a knee problem.

Edouard Mendy kept the goalkeeping gloves in the absence of Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Mateo Kovacic was deemed only fit enough for the bench, only sent into action by Potter with ten minutes to go.

Ferdinand feels for Potter

Compared to Arsenal’s settled XI, Chelsea looked messy and muddled, with the score line reflecting such polar opposites.

But whilst the Gunners were clearly the better outfit, Ferdinand couldn’t help put point towards Potter’s injury list as a reason for the defeat.  

“I think it’s difficult for him because of injuries. Look at this back-line; decimated,” said the former Manchester United centre-back.

“Fofana, massive signing. Reece James, probably the most influential player in this team over the last year.

Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

“Ben Chilwell, (N’Golo) Kante. Integral players he hasn’t been able to use and you think, what if he did have those four, five players there.”

Chelsea just not the same without James

It is unquestionable that Chelsea are a stronger machine with James available.

The 22-year-old offers defensive solidity and attacking prowess down the right flank, something the Blues missed entirely against Arsenal.

Unfortunately, Potter will have to cope without the England international until after the World Cup.

Thankfully, there is only two games left to go.

Sadly, those two games are against Manchester City and Newcastle United.

No rush, Reece…

"Nathaniel is a football journalist who graduated from the University of Derby. He worked at Burton Albion as part of their media team for two years. Nathaniel produced 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. Nathaniel is a full-time writer for the Chelsea Chronicle, and was formerly their social media man. His footballing career reached the sparkling heights of winning the Under-13s Bloxham Tournament in 2011."