Gabby Agbonlahor has claimed that injured Chelsea duo Reece James and Ben Chilwell are both better defensively than teammates Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso.

James and Chilwell, who are England internationals and a great wing-back pairing, are both sidelined right now through injury.

James, 22, is a talented right wing-back to come from the Blues academy. His absence since last month with a hamstring problem has left a sizeable hole in Thomas Tuchel’s line-up. Likewise, 25-year-old left wing-back Chilwell has been a major loss since November with a knee problem that’s predicted to keep him out for the rest of the season.

Blues manager Tuchel has generally stuck with a formation that includes wing-backs during the pair’s absence, albeit there has been some flexibility at times to try out a back four.

Chelsea captain Azpilicueta, 32, is the common replacement for James on the right flank. Meanwhile, 31-year-old Alonso plays on the left in a wing-back role that suits his offensive game.

Despite the best efforts of Chelsea’s more senior defenders, talkSPORT pundit Agbonlahor has highlighted how much the London club miss young athletic duo James and Chilwell:

“When I look at Chelsea I look at how much they miss Reece James and Ben Chilwell,” Agbonlahor told talkSPORT.

“How many goals has Lukaku scored from crosses from Chilwell and James? And defensively Chilwell an James are better than [Cesar] Azpilicueta and [Marcos] Alonso.”

Leicester City v Chelsea - Premier League
Photo by James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images

James return will be vital for Chelsea

There’s no official timescale yet, but it will be a massive boost when James returns to the Chelsea XI from a hamstring injury.

Of course, everyone’s well aware of how much he contributes going forward. He’s scored five goals and made six assists already this season in all competitions.

However, the defensive part of his game is underrated because he’s so powerful and aggressive. It’s quite telling that Agbonlahor rates him as a better defender than Azpilicueta, who was once viewed by several as the best one-on-one defender in the Premier League.

Garth Crooks described James as one of the division’s most improved players in 2021, which is why the Stamford Bridge faithful are desperate to get him back now.

Keep up to date with all the latest Chelsea news and opinion by following The Chelsea Chronicle’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Have something to tell us about this article?
Let us know

More in Pundit View