MARCOS ALONSO’s pain turned into Reece James’ gain on Saturday night.
The 20-year-old rising star stepped in after Frank Lampard wrung the changes at the back following Wednesday’s crumbling at West Ham.
Lampard was furious at how his team handed the Hammers a 3-2 victory and Alonso, along with Antonio Rudiger, paid the price.
That meant another opportunity for right-back James with Kurt Zouma also drafted into the middle and Cesar Azpilicueta switching to left-back.
James had little to do against a Watford team devoid of ideas and looking over their shoulder at the dreaded drop zone.
It took Nigel Pearson’s men 74 minutes to register their first shot on target at Stamford Bridge – that’s how simple this evening was for Chelsea’s defence.
The boyhood Blues fan looked comfortable at the back and charged forward down the right, putting in some threatening crosses which could’ve led to a goal on another day.
Along with the likes of Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham, James is another bright young spark destined for big things.
But there will be bigger tests ahead than Watford at home and that’s when James will be given a stern examination.
He was one of three players hauled off by Lampard at half-time in the FA Cup tie at Leicester last weekend after an uninspiring first half.
James will flourish in the future but Blues boss Lampard must think long and hard about a short-term fix for the next couple of seasons.
Chelsea can’t rely on the 20-year-old to bail them out when players like Alonso put in performances like he did on Wednesday night.
Not if they want to close the gap to Liverpool and Manchester City and become a force in Europe.
The Blues have spent big up front with £58m Christian Pulisic beginning to flourish after injuries and another £90m worth of talent in Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech on the way this summer.
Opening the cheque book might be the only way to avoid more horror shows like Wednesday night until James develops into the real deal.