On May 15, 2019, Chelsea were set to take on New England Revolution in a friendly match played for the ‘Final Whistle Against Hate’ campaign in the USA. Although Chelsea won the game 3-0, it was a very frustrating day indeed for supporters, as Ruben Loftus-Cheek, visibly in pain, was walked off the pitch with the help of the medical team. Fans feared the worst, and it was announced next day that Loftus-Cheek would be sidelined from action for the foreseeable future after he ruptured his Achilles Tendon in the match. This was a frustrating moment for everyone involved, as Loftus-Cheek, the talisman of the academy, had finally broke his way into Maurizio Sarri’s 2018-19 team that season. The midfielder played a crucial part in the former Chelsea manager’s team, even though he had just started 19 of the 43 games in which he was involved. After almost a year of rehabilitation, Loftus-Cheek is back at a very crucial time for Frank Lampard’s Chelsea, where the clubs hopes of an FA cup outing and a top 4 finish are on the line, as Chelsea take on Aston Villa this weekend.
Breakthrough Year – 2018/19
After a rather successful loan spell at Crystal Palace, the midfielder was back at Chelsea which was managed by Maurizio Sarri. Fans expected Loftus-Cheek to immediately play a prominent role in the campaign, but that was not meant to be. Loftus-Cheek featured in the Europa league campaign where he scored an impressive hat trick against Bate Borisov. However, Ruben’s first start in the Premier League came on Matchweek 15 after he had two goals from his two previous appearances as a substitute. He scored in his first Premier League start, but Chelsea lost to Wolves. In spite of his form, he did not get a lot of opportunities to start in the heart of Sarri’s midfield 3. All this changed around April when he was one of the first names on the team sheet. During this tenure, Ruben showcased his ability to the Stamford bridge faithful when he picked up 3 goals and 2 assists from 5 starts in Premier league matches. His heroics against Frankfurt in the semi-final of the Europa League saw the blues clinch a berth in the finals. Ruben’s impact was a massive boost for the team as he linked up with Eden Hazard and Emerson on the left hand side of the pitch.
Road to Recovery and Beyond
Ruben Loftus-Cheek started his long road to recovery after his injury in May 2019. He posted regular updates on his social media accounts with manager Frank Lampard estimating the midfielder’s return to be around the busy Christmas period. Loftus-Cheek featured in an U-23 game vs Everton on his road to recovery, and he was adjudged Man of the match. His imminent return was thought to provide Frank Lampard a much need boost to his midfield selection that was riddled with injuries. However, he did not start a single game for the Blues before the campaign came to a halt due to the Corona virus outbreak. The two month long break was also a blessing in disguise for Loftus-Cheek to continue to build fitness and keep himself free of injuries. The Blues returned to training late may as part of the start of ‘Project Restart,’ which also saw a fit Loftus-Cheek back in full training with the first team. The midfielder featured in both house friendlies against Reading and Queens Park Rangers, scoring a brace against the latter – an indication of what is to come from a fully fit Loftus-Cheek.
His Importance to Chelsea
Ruben Loftus-Cheek is a complete midfielder who played his best football under former manager Maurizo Sarri when he started at the LCM position in what many people would describe his role as a ‘Mezzala.’ A Mezzala is a midfielder who is capable of playing box to box but is much more clinical in the final third offering goal scoring options from both outside and inside the box while functioning as one of the two playmakers in an advanced midfield role. Loftus-Cheek picked up 10 goals and 5 assists from just 19 starts in the 2018/19 campaign playing as a central midfielder.
Loftus-Cheek was also the pick of Sarri’s attacking midfielders recording an impressive 0.72 G/A ratio per game, meaning he was likely to score or assist in games where he featured. His defensive numbers were a testament to him becoming a complete midfielder, ranking third among all Chelsea midfielders for tackles won, interceptions, blocks and opposition pressure. He is also impeccable on the ball and loves to take on defenders. His tall frame and strength adds to his strengths as a midfielder.
Frank Lampard has played the 4-3-3 and the 4-2-3-1 extensively this season. I expect Loftus-Cheek to slot right at home in the LCM spot as the progressive midfielder in a 4-3-3 or play a more advanced role as an attacking midfielder ahead of the pivot in a 4-2-3-1. Ruben’s versatility means he can also play in the pivot in a 4-2-3-1 as well, but I expect him to feature in a more advanced role in Frank Lampard’s XI. No matter the formation, I expect him to be a regular on Frank Lampard’s team as he can potentially be the last piece of the midfield puzzle that Frank has not been able to address until now, which has been a lack of goals from his midfielders.
Will he Reclaim his Throne?
Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s return this season has been long overdue and it will be a refreshing sight for many Chelsea fans 2 potentially make his returning start against Aston Villa this Sunday. He maybe the key to Chelsea’s top 4 ambitions and a potential FA cup winning campaign in a few days from now as he looks to drive a midfield that has lacked a serious goal threat. Will Ruben Loftus-Cheek reclaim what is rightfully his and fulfil all that potential we saw back in 2018/19? I believe he will. Welcome back to the squad, Ruben Loftus-Cheek!
Where do you think Ruben will feature in Frank’s Chelsea. Let me know your thoughts on the comments down below. Hope you are excited to see Chelsea back this weekend, just as I am.
Edited by: Dan