Why Chelsea defender Reece James is ready to seize an opportunity in the battle to be England right-back

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 (Chelsea FC via Getty Images)
(Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

As Gareth Southgate faces more questions over who should start at right-back for England, one player stands out from the rest.

Reece James said yesterday he is in the form of his life and, in these two final qualifiers against Albania and San Marino, and with a little over a year until the World Cup in Qatar, he has a chance to show Southgate that he is the answer.

James has played a key role in Chelsea’s rise to the top of the table. He and Ben Chilwell are becoming more accomplished as attacking wing-backs, and James already has four goals and three assists in eight Premier League games this season.

Despite his brilliant form, though, a starting spot for England is not guaranteed. Announcing his squad last week, Southgate name-checked no fewer than seven right-backs in his thinking.

Trent Alexander-Arnold and Kyle Walker have also made strong starts to the season, Kieran Trippier remains one of the best right-backs in the world, while there is now added competition from Tino Livramento following his move to Southampton from Chelsea.

Trippier has been left out of this squad, with Southgate saying he wants to give opportunities to James and Alexander-Arnold in England’s final camp of 2021. Based on the past few weeks, James is best placed to take that opportunity.

“This is the best I have performed,” said the 21-year-old. “When you are playing well and the team is performing, keeping clean sheets and winning games, it obviously helps us build confidence.”

While James has hit new heights as part of a Chelsea team which has kept five clean sheets in the eight League matches he has featured, Alexander-Arnold showed the best and worst of his game in Liverpool’s 3-2 defeat at West Ham on Sunday. A brilliant free-kick and his undoubted attacking qualities were cast against defensive shortcomings.

James’s ability out of possession and his increased attacking output mean he has the potential to take control of the England right-back spot in the years ahead.

Walker remains Southgate’s first choice for now. He has started all but two of England’s games since Euro 2020, but will not be around forever.

Right now, James seems his natural heir.

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