Frank Lampard said the form of Reece James more or less made it impossible not to select the teenage right-back in place of captain Cesar Azpilicueta for the 2-0 home victory over Crystal Palace..
James, who scored after coming on a substitute in the 4-4 midweek draw against Ajax, excelled in both defence and attack in his first Premier League start.
Lampard was full of praise for James’s efforts against the much-hyped Wilfried Zaha.
“Reece was fantastic against one of the best wingers in the league one-v-one,” Lampard said.
“He is a real threat on the counter-attack and Reece dealt with those situations and also joined in with the attack; you can see how comfortable he is with the ball at his feet and his delivery and passing.
“I trust Reece. He had an injury early season but he has got fit and has been training at a level where he deserved minutes and he did brilliantly.”
But Lampard said leaving out the ever-reliable Azpilicueta was a big decision.
“It’s part of my job,” Lampard added. “It would be a tougher call if I was speaking to him when he was having a difficult time and I was bringing a kid in but Azpi is playing really well for us.
“He is a leader and a driver but with Reece and the way he is playing the opportunity to play him was one I had to make because it gives me options going forward.
“Azpi is such a great personality and character. He is easy to speak to because he feels the club and he wants the best and knows how much I value him.
“It might give me some selection problems going forwards but I want what’s best for the team and it’s a nice problem.”