LONDON — In Chelsea’s world, everything felt good for 53 minutes. The taste of the first three defeats in the World Cup was wiped out by two goals in the first half and a huge improvement in attacking ability. More importantly, however, the hero has returned. Reece James is back and the Blues are cruising. This is no coincidence.
So the lasting memory of this match isn’t Kai Havertz’s opener, with a returning Christian Pulisic bringing his USMNT form to the blue and white or Tia Go Silva’s timeless excellence. Instead, it’s the moment James points to that knee again. For one, West London held its breath.
Again, this could be a welcome moment of reset for their manager before any pressure can come under the Stamford Bridge dugout. Given all the caveats that come with a victory over an extremely ordinary opponent at Bournemouth, it starts with Chelsea, as they were very difficult in the dog days of Thomas Tuchel’s tenure or Graham Potter’s initial attempts. rarely appear.
Since taking over West London, Potter’s early adjustments have been unpredictable. When it paid off, for example, when Sterling popped up as a left-wing back, his adjustments looked like a supernatural coaching genius. Perhaps after defeats to Arsenal, Manchester City and Newcastle, now is not the time to go overboard. Chelsea have much better players than Bournemouth, put them where they are most comfortable and off you go. Every player, from goalkeeper to centre-forward, can legitimately feel that they are being placed in the best possible position. Other than that, the mix is just right.
Jorginho may move the ball gracefully, but he has Treebeard’s first step. Denis Zakaria is more than willing to run for him, with the Juventus loanee seemingly destined to head into the Premier League’s restart with his autumn revival from January’s scrap heap. Havertz would naturally be drawn from his central role to play deeper. Christian Pulisic and Raheem Sterling were ready to attack the space he vacated.
The invisible cord that held this team together after his return from injury cost him his chance to revive his name at the World Cup, it was James. At the worst of the weeks following his injury against AC Milan in October, Chelsea appeared to be in a waiting mode, waiting for their best player to return as a close attacking force. As Havertz, Sterling, Mount and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang falter, the question going out always seems to be ‘how much better will they look when James feeds them’? ?” Stamford Bridge got the answer in an instant.
When the ball went into the hands of Kepa Arrizabalaga, his first instinct was to pass the ball quickly to the right-back. Chelsea flew down at will from the right. James maintained his width, widening Bournemouth’s back a fifth wide enough that Sterling had the opening lane and Mount could pass through the gaps in the half-court. James may not have played the killer pass in Havertz’s opening game, but without him in the XI his team-mates would not have been open.
Find someone in the space with James at hand whenever a teammate needs it. Every cross from his boot was begging to be attacked. Just before half-time, 50% of Chelsea’s attacks were in the right third of the pitch, and looking at that outsized figure, it wasn’t any higher, which somehow seems remarkable. James tipped the court toward him.