Ruben Loftus-Cheek put in another fine display for Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea side, but his journey has been fraught with horrific injuries and frustrating loan spells
In the deepest, darkest stages of the transfer window, the conversation naturally progressed into Chelsea’s apparent dearth in midfield.
Billy Gilmour was loaned to Norwich, and suddenly the Champions League holders were reduced to Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic, and injury prone N’Golo Kante. Fortunately, Saul Niguez was loaned from Atletico Madrid, and Thomas Tuchel’s midfield woes were spared – then the Spaniard made his debut.
With alarming ease, the match bypassed the experienced midfielder in the same way Chelsea supporters bypass the Stamford Bridge turnstiles. He was hauled off at half-time of Chelsea’s 3-0 home win against Aston Villa.
Tuchel, the gentleman he is, politely shouldered the blame claiming he should not have exposed him to Premier League football so early – Saul has only played two Premier League minutes since.
Fortunately, Tuchel had the perfect reinforcement – the football world had simply forgotten he was already at Stamford Bridge. – Ruben Loftus-Cheek soon returned with a mighty point to prove.
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He was the most industrious, creative, and useful of Chelsea’s midfield, who were bypassed and exposed in a 1-0 home defeat to Manchester City in the same way Saul was in his debut.
Loftus-Cheek could not manufacture an equaliser at Stamford Bridge, but he reminded everybody of his presence – Chelsea’s midfield problem was once again cured.
Fast forward to the present day, and Loftus-Cheek’s broad shoulders were above everybody else as Chelsea’s laboured to a 1-0 away win to Malmo.
Despite the freezing cold elements in Sweden, the 25-year-old played with fire in his feel, as he completely dominated the middle of the part – except from the first 15 minutes.
“I was a bit worried in the first 15 minutes if Ruben can find another gear, but I heard before it was his first Champions League match since 2015 from the start,” Thomas Tuchel said after Chelsea’s tricky 1-0 away win to Malmo.
“Yeah, I think we can give the boys credit sometimes to be maybe nervous and find their way into the match.
“I am happy he fought his way through and in the moment it is symbolic for me he does not disappear or stay invisible.
“He wants to dominate opponents, he wants not to just be a part of the game because I think he is too talented to just be a part of the group.”
Action Images via Reuters)
Loftus-Cheek’s heavyweight boxer structure may present him as another brute force who will just send players into the air, but he is as light and agile as a gymnast, and but has the drive and momentum of a sprinter.
He combined both of his attributes beautifully when he spun inside Malmo’s Sergio Pena, cut-inside the on-rushing Bonka Innocent and drove into the acres of space he had created for himself.
All the loan spells which just did not quite work, all of the managers who did not want to take a chance, and the plethora of injury struggles have made Loftus-Cheek the player he is today.
Two managers have preceded Tuchel since a fateful night in the United States where Loftus-Cheek ruptured his Achilles.
In what was probably the most damaging mid-season charity match in Chelsea history, Loftus-Cheek’s most notable spell in the squad was horribly cut-short.
It was claimed by the Athletic his Achilles resembled “a horse’s tail” such was the extent of the torn fibres caused by the injury.
He made his Chelsea return 13 months later during Project Restart, where he spent 55 minutes on the left wing during a 2-1 away win against Aston Villa, but he played like a player who had been injured for 13 months.
A few months later, he was loaned out to Fulham, but neither the Cottagers nor Loftus-Cheek appeared to fit each other.
At the beginning of the season, he was often seen as being amongst the dead wood Tuchel needed to shift.
Now, he is playing himself into contention every week, and Tuchel has challenged the Englishman to entrench himself into the roots of the West Londoners.
“He needs to use his full potential – that is the absolute key for him – and if he does like in this moment he can be a big part of the squad,” Tuchel added.
“That is why I am very happy and after the first 15 minutes he was involved in a lot of dangerous moments for us.
“I am very happy with him and the next step is to show consistency and push himself because the limit can constantly be pushed because he has so much potential.”
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