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The Importance of Ruben Loftus-Cheek

Lewisham born, Ruben Loftus-Cheek joined the Blues youth set up at the age of eight, adding to an already talented group of youngsters ...

Lewisham born, Ruben Loftus-Cheek joined the Blues youth set up at the age of eight, adding to an already talented group of youngsters at the club. The boyhood Chelsea fan worked his way through the youth ranks, collecting multiple titles along the way, as Chelsea’s academy continued to flourish and build a formidable reputation for being at the forefront of academies in the country.

Playing in central midfield, the youngster was at the heart of many successful youth sides, the standout being in 2013-14 when he helped his side to triumph in the FA Youth Cup, a huge accolade for any youngster. Also a regular in the u21’s that season, Loftus-cheek helped the side to win the Premier League, completing a remarkable season for him and Chelsea’s youth sides. 

His eye-catching performances hadn’t gone unnoticed with the boss at the time, Jose Mourinho.  On the 10th December 2014, Loftus Cheek deputized for the senior team, replacing Cesc Fabregas in a 3-1 victory over Sporting CP in the Champions League. In his short spell on the pitch, the youngster provided the Chelsea faithful with an exciting glimpse of what he may be able to offer the side in years to come,  showing confidence and maturity way beyond his years. On the night, he toyed with the Sporting defenders, as he went on numerous marauding ball-carrying runs and didn’t shy away from playing his usual game.

3rd February 2015 came and Loftus-Cheek was promoted to the first team. Since the day, the rising star found opportunities limited, firstly under Mourinho and also when Italian manager Antonio Conte arrived at the club in the 2016-17 season. 

In 2017-18, deserving of more opportunities, Loftus-Cheek decided to take a career-driven decision and complete a season-long loan to Crystal Palace. Here, he thrived and his move paid dividends. Loftus-Cheek’s form earned him his England debut, where he received a man of the match award against Germany, shortly followed by a call up to the World Cup Squad.

Loftus-Cheek’s first-team break 

Upon returning to Chelsea the following season, another new manager was at the helm, this time Maurizio Sarri. ‘Sarriball’, a fast, high pressing, eye-catching style of football accustomed to that of the Italian manager, had many of the Chelsea fans and attack-minded players excited.

One player who was to benefit from the arrival of the new boss was Loftus-Cheek. After starting mainly Europa League games, the England international was slowly integrated into the league side. As his confidence continued to grow, Loftus Cheek was becoming Chelsea’s most valuable player, many of the Chelsea fanbase believing he may fill the void left by the inevitable departure of Eden Hazard. 

In Sarri’s system, Loftus Cheek was deployed on the left of a midfield three, however, he had the license to roam free and break forward to offer attacking support. Standing at 6 foot 3 inches, Loftus-Cheek is a powerhouse. He is able to dictate the midfield with his sheer strength and bully his opposition,  reminiscent of Yaya Toure. After Glenn Hoddle likened the young man to Chelsea great Michael Ballack, the blues faithful responded with a fitting ‘Lewisham Ballack’ chant, a truly notable comparison. His power, drive, and speed when running with the ball is remarkable as he eases past his challengers.  However, for a man of his stature, he provides sheer elegance when driving with the ball. 

Not only is Loftus-Cheek a threat on the ball, his off the ball work is as impressive. Being a box to box midfielder, the 24-year-old also offers great defensive nous, using his power and speed to help recover the ball for the Blues. His off the ball movement represents a player with extreme footballing intelligence. He finds spaces between the lines, linking up attacking play and also has an eye for a clinical pass or shot. Finishing the season with a total of ten goals and five assists, Loftus-cheek was Chelsea’s most productive midfielder last season under Sarri.

Injury horror for Ruben

Coming to the tail end of the season, Loftus-Cheek suffered a ruptured achilles in a friendly charity match vs New England Revolution in the USA. Unfortunately for the England international, it was set to keep him out for a long period of time, including missing the Europa League Final.

After nine months of injury rehabilitation, Loftus-Cheek finally returned to full training on the 24th January 2020, giving Lampard a first glimpse of what he could offer to the new revolution.  However, match fitness was non-existent, meaning the midfielder was set to remain on the sidelines. 

With the Corona Virus pandemic leaving many uncertainties, when football does return Loftus-Cheek will be aiming to reclaim his spot in the Chelsea side as competition for places looks set to soar.

Loftus Cheek the missing piece to Lampard’s puzzle?

Since Christmas, Chelsea has struggled at times to break opposition defenses down, with a lack of creativity and attacking rhythm becoming an issue for the Blues. The absence of key individuals such as Christian Pulisic and Loftus-Cheek may be a key factor contributing to this. After returning from a prolonged period on the sidelines, the English powerhouse may be the difference to unlocking Chelsea’s attacking potential.

After having such a successful season in 2018-19, Loftus-Cheek’s injury came at an unfortunate time, as the midfielder had discovered his best form to date, finishing with ten goals and five assists to his name. His performances encapsulate a player brimming with confidence and when the footballing campaign resumes, Chelsea and Loftus-Cheek will be hoping he rediscovers the form that earnt him his starting birth. 

Lampard’s youthful side could massively benefit from having a player of Loftus-Cheeks’s caliber in the side. His powerful driving runs, intuitive link-up play, and also his clinical nature could provide Lampard with an extremely useful weapon from midfield. Mateo Kovacic, Ngolo Kante, Mason Mount, and Jorginho are all extremely gifted midfielders, however, they don’t provide the attacking menace and brute strength that Loftus-cheek offers, in particular when carrying the ball.  The  England international is also extremely decisive and dispassionate when making decisions in the final third, whether it’s playing the killer pass, carving a passage through multiple players, or coldly dispatching a shot, something which The Blues have been guilty of not doing in recent months.

If Loftus-Cheek rediscovers his best form, it could be like a new signing for The Blues. Not only that, Chelsea’s exciting attacking potential could be firmly unlocked.

Written by - Harry Williams
Twitter - @haz_williams00

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