Thomas Tuchel explains his decision to play Reece James in midfield against Zenit

Zenit St. Petersburg v Chelsea FC: Group H - UEFA Champions League

James featured in an unfamiliar midfield role in Russia (Picture: Getty)

Thomas Tuchel has explained mounting injuries forced him to get ‘creative’ in his team selection against Zenit St Petersburg after picking Reece James in midfield.

The Chelsea boss made eight changes as his side were held to a 3-3 draw away in Russia on Wednesday night.

With N’Golo Kante, Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic all unavailable due to injury, James was deployed in midfield alongside Ross Barkley, with Saul Niguez starting in a left wing-back role.

While one of Chelsea’s best players this term, the England international was often overrun in the middle of the park.

But with Tuchel eager to rest Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who remained on the bench in St Petersburg, Tuchel explained he had little choice but to experiment with Reece in a new role.

Zenit St. Petersburg v Chelsea FC: Group H - UEFA Champions League

Tuchel was without none of his regular midfield options (Picture: Getty)

Asked whether James is likely to have a future midfield role, Tuchel said: ‘I expect N’Golo, Mateo, Jorgi and Ruben to start in midfield but they are all out so we had to get creative with Reecey. 

‘The target is to put him on the wing but we need players in midfield.’

Chelsea are experiencing their first rocky patch of the season, winning just one of their last four and having shipped six in their last two following Saturday’s defeat at West Ham.

‘If you are coach of Chelsea and you concede six goals in two matches, four times we’ve given the lead away, my ambition to talk about individual performances is not so high,’ Tuchel said in his post-match press conference.

‘We can’t be happy today or against West Ham.

‘It is like that now not to talk about individual performances. Nobody can be happy.’


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