Chelsea: Thomas Tuchel plotting Reece James solution to looming defensive crisis amid summer transfer fears
Thomas Tuchel is considering calling on Reece James to solve Chelsea’s centre-back crisis next season.
The German opened up for the first time about his concerns this summer, when the club’s new owners will immediately be faced with the prospect of replacing out-of-contract Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen.
Sevilla defender Jules Kounde is Chelsea’s top target, with Wesley Fofana and Pau Torres also on their radar.
But Tuchel knows he will have to use up a huge portion of his budget to fill the void left by Rudiger and Christensen, who will both leave as free agents. And he admits the upheaval at the top of the club, with Roman Abramovich in the process of being bought out, places uncertainty over his recruitment plans during a key window.
He said: “I would be less concerned if we still had the same ownership, if we could rely on our structure.
“We are not concerned, but aware of the danger that the situation is maybe a bit more complex. And it can be complex enough if you lose a player like Toni, and maybe lose another player like Andreas, with that kind of quality, and both of them free.
“It can be demanding enough even if everything else stays in place. So with this in question it can be a very, very demanding summer.”
Deploying James on the right of a back three is one option being considered, but that would require Tuchel to bring in a top-quality wing-back.
He still believes the England international is most effective in wide areas, but could shift him between the roles more often next term.
“I would love to have two Reece James’ to have the problem solved,” said the Chelsea manager. “It is 55 per cent towards wing-back, 45 per cent towards back three.
“I am leaning more into it that his very best position is wing-back, where he is maybe more decisive. His next step is to be a regular, 50-55 matches player. From there we have to decide. Both positions are filled with top quality with him.”
Tuchel would also like to improve his forward line this summer, with Romelu Lukaku’s failure to adjust to Chelsea’s system raising doubts about the £97.5million striker’s future.
Conor Gallagher will return from loan at Crystal Palace, while Tuchel would like more cover at wing-back. But he admits Chelsea are already behind schedule in terms of recruitment planning, due to the sanctions imposed on Abramovich.
“We would have some targets and we would have for sure contacted some players and found out about their situations (by now),” said Tuchel. “Now our hands are tied. We can still have the talks inside the building, but we cannot act.
“The situation is not ideal. It would be challenging enough with a stable situation. I’m committed, I’m looking forward to it and I’m passionate about it. And as soon as we can act, we will try to act and turn things around.”
Tuchel has also made his clearest plea yet for Chelsea’s new owners to keep director Marina Granovskaia and technical advisor Petr Cech in place when the takeover is complete.
“I was so happy with the structure that the club provides and the mentality Chelsea provides,” he added. “That was, for me, always the foundation to strongly believe and genuinely believe: ‘Okay, we will push and keep on pushing.’
“The key thing for me is that we keep the mentality in the building at least and in the club. The competitive mentality that was installed over more than a decade.”