Glen Johnson played at the very top level for club and country, with experience of making a World Cup squad, having travelled to Brazil with England in 2014; the highlight being his delivery of an assist to Wayne Rooney in an unfortunate eventual loss to Uruguay.
Now, with the Three Lions warming up for this years tournament in Qatar, Johnson, 38 has spoken about the prospects of Chelsea pair Reece James and Ben Chilwell, the latter receiving his first England call-up in over a year, having suffered a serious knee ligament injury last season. In fact, both players picked up significant injuries last term and are looking to bounce back.
Reece James, a boyhood Chelsea supporter, is often compared to, and will compete with, Trent Alexander-Arnold of Liverpool, another of Johnson’s former sides, for a spot in England manager Gareth Southgate’s starting eleven. And Johnson has weighed into the debate, believing that there is no question over who should be first choice in the right-back position this November.
“He’s been brilliant this season,” Johnson said of Reece James, who has appeared on 13 occasions for the senior national side in just under two years, making his debut in October 2020.
When pressed on whether the Chelsea academy graduate was the "world’s best right-back", Johnson responded that he “couldn’t think of anyone better at the moment”. James will be hoping that Southgate has similar views to that of Johnson, having managed to firmly displace his club captain Cesar Azpilicueta over the last two seasons at Stamford Bridge and already managing a goal for Chelsea in just six appearances.
Feeling the chill
Ben Chilwell is a player who has largely been displaced for his club so far this season, failing to force his way back into what was Thomas Tuchel's team on his return from injury at the tail end of the last campaign. This time around, Chigwell has been making impressive cameos when he has been involved - most recently bringing his side back on level terms with an instant impact as a substitute in Chelsea's recent late win against West Ham United.
The arrival of Marc Cucurella has seemingly left Chilwell as second choice on the left-hand side of Chelsea’s defence, but Johnson thinks that Chilwell deserves more opportunities, despite Cucurella offering the London side something different by being the “more technical player and better on the ball”.
Speaking ahead of England’s match against Italy, where Ben Chilwell will be hoping for a chance to stake a claim for a place on the plane to Qatar, Johnson conveyed his admiration for the former Leicester City player, stating that he liked Chilwell’s “engine” and the “way he gets forward” and that if he were Graham Potter, Cucurella’s former manager at Brighton, that he would “start with Chilwell”.
With Luke Shaw not featuring for Manchester United with any regularity so far this season, Southgate will be exploring his options for the left-back position, with Chilwell unlucky to have not made an appearance for England during last summer’s Euro 2020 tournament, despite having been selected in the 26 man squad.
Although Johnson had only good things to say about James and Chilwell, he was less complimentary about current Chelsea forward Kai Havertz, who he claimed the club might look to “replace” and former team mate and compatriot Timo Werner, who Johnson says, didn’t “do it” in the Premier League.
Many players, like James and Chilwell will be using this international break to stay fresh and look ahead. With Chelsea having had their last two matches postponed, it will be a priority to maintain match fitness ahead of a gruelling and compressed campaign to ensure that they'll make it on to the plane to the World Cup this winter.