By 90Min
November 21, 2018

Season after season, an army of Chelsea youngsters are sent out on loan all across Europe. This year, there are 40 Chelsea hopefuls eager to impress the Blues , but none are succeeding like Reece James.

The young full-back joined Wigan Athletic this summer to replace the coincidentally-named Reece James, who remained in League One with Sunderland. 

The 18-year-old is drawing a huge amount of praise, with The Sun now claiming he is a £10m-target for Brighton and Hove Albion.

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This is James' first taste of senior football, and he is truly excelling. He has made 17 appearances for the Championship side this season, of which 16 were starts, and has been one of Wigan's top performers.

He was named as the club's Player of the Month for both September and October, and could be in with a shout of winning his third consecutive award after netting his first senior goal against Leeds United. However, to those who have been closely following James' development, this will come as no surprise.

Many would claim that he is already the finest crosser of a ball in Chelsea's entire squad. During his time in youth football, James built a reputation as an expert crosser, offering one expert delivery after another, whilst his defensive ability has also never been in doubt.

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Wigan's recent run of four consecutive defeats has seen them fall to 16th in the Championship, but that is by no means a fair indication of James' abilities. His crossing skills have been catching the eye all season, and his undying stamina has seen him develop into a superb influence at both ends of the field.

This is not the first time that a member of the Chelsea loan army has enjoyed a successful time away from the club. However, they rarely return and make an impact on the first team, but there is a serious belief that there may be a regular space for James at right-back next season.

Backup right-back Davide Zappacosta has failed to impress during his first year at the club, whilst first-choice defender Cesar Azpilicueta has been showing signs of decline. The Spaniard has been one of The Blues' most reliable options across the defensive lines in recent years, but superb one-on-one defending seems to be slowly disappearing from his repertoire.

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Azpilicueta has recently turned 29, meaning he is certainly entering the latter stages of his career and, whilst there is no suggestion that his recent struggles are down to his age, Chelsea would be foolish not to be considering his long-term successor.

In an interview on Chelsea's official website, head of youth development Neil Bath admitted that the club prefer all their players to have at least 150 appearances in senior football before they enter the first-team at Chelsea, whether that be a youngster or a new signing.

By this logic, James would need at least two more full seasons away on loan before permanently returning to the club, but Chelsea should certainly look to accelerate his inclusion in the first-team, before another club opts to do so first.

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