Having been a key player for Barnsley this season – a side on the fringes of the play-offs in this division – the addition of Matty James looks to be something of a coup. With the team lacking a level of leadership and presence in the centre of the pitch following the injury to Liam Kelly, Matty James also directly addresses a key need in the team. The only thing that tempers the excitement about signing James is his horrendous injury record over the past five years, which has seen him make just 52 league appearances since the 2014/15 season.
Matty James isn’t necessarily a like-for-like replacement for Liam Kelly. While Kelly looks to use his physicality to act as the defensive shield, James’ game is based around his positioning and intelligent use of the ball. It could leaves the midfield lacking an element of physicality, but that extra composure on the ball could well see us have longer spells in possession and be better able to sustain pressure on opponents. In particular, it should help Gustavo Hamer to focus on pushing further forward and being more destructive with this passing knowing that there is a player alongside him who can reliably recycle possession.
The hope with signing Matty James is that he is a player who can help accelerate our transition from being a side that has had to scrap and cling on for most of the we have accumulated at this level thus far to one that can play with more control. The risk is that James’ injury problems flare up, which would rob the team of a potentially key player. Provided he can stay fit for this loan spell, James looks to be exactly the kind of experienced and high-calibre player that this team needs to establish itself in the Championship.