Chelsea captain Reece James has been charged by the FA with alleged verbal abuse of a match official in the tunnel after the club’s Premier League defeat to Aston Villa at the weekend.
James has not played for Chelsea since the opening game of the season because of a hamstring injury but was still present at Stamford Bridge for Sunday’s match.
Ollie Watkins scored the only goal of the contest for Villa, condemning Chelsea to a third league defeat of the season already. Malo Gusto had earlier been sent off for dangerous play following a VAR intervention, while the Blues also saw an Axel Disasi goal ruled out for a narrow offside.
It was another lacklustre display from Chelsea and, worryingly for Mauricio Pochettino, a third consecutive Premier League game without finding the net.
“We are confident in the way we perform. The only thing we are missing is scoring and, if we keep working hard, we will change,” Pochettino said afterwards. “I am not frustrated, just disappointed. I think we were the better team until the red card.”
An FA statement on James issued on Wednesday afternoon read: “Reece James has been charged with a breach of FA Rule E3 following Chelsea’s Premier League game against Aston Villa on Sunday 24 September. It’s alleged that the defender used improper and/or insulting and/or abusive words and/or behaviour towards a match official in the tunnel after the game.”
James has been given two days to respond to the charge.
The FA have been looking to clamp down on abusive behaviour towards match officials this season. Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk recently had a suspension extended by one game for how he reacted to being shown a red card against Newcastle. He was also fined £100,000.
Earlier this week, James discussed his injury recovery process.
“My job is to play football and I want to be able to help the team, but I can’t do that at the moment, so right now my job is to get fit as quickly and as safely as possible,” he said.
“I want to get back out there soon, but it’s also important to make sure that it’s the right moment, so that when I do come back, I’m in a position to continue the season without any problems later on.
“I’m another stage closer to returning now I’ve been on the grass for the last couple of weeks and I’m working hard right now to come back, put my injury problems to bed and help the team as much as I can.”
The 24-year-old could return to action just before the October international break, with any suspension potentially coming from his charge likely to have been already served by then.