clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Keep, Sell, Loan: Ruben Loftus-Cheek's 2015-16 season in review

Taking a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of each and every Chelsea player's season. Next up, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, the promising English box-to-box midfielder.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Appearances: 7 starts (+10 as substitute).
Minutes: 405 in Premier League; 206 in domestic cups; 77 in Champions League.
Statistics (per 90 minutes, Premier League): 50.51 attempted passes (88% pass completion); 2.49 shots (1.07 on target); 2.91 fouls suffered.

One of Chelsea's best prospects to emerge from our youth ranks, Ruben Loftus-Cheek got his first real chances last season, after impressing in pre-season tours even as far back as 2013.  The 6ft 3in midfielder made his professional debut as a late sub for Cesc Fàbregas in a Champions League group stage match in December 2014. He went on to make three further appearances for the first-team that season, including starts against Liverpool and West Bromwich when Chelsea already had the Premier League and League Cup titles in their possession.

Given Chelsea's efforts at establishing a huge development network of loans to help players (at least in theory) progress by exposing them to real competition and plenty of playing time, Loftus-Cheek was a prime candidate for a major loan move in the summer transfer window. But manager José Mourinho and the club decided to keep the player at the club instead so he could improve under our own watchful eyes, even if by the same token, he would not be getting as much actual playing time as he would've gotten elsewhere.

Amidst public challenges from the manager -- RLC's "attitude" has been questioned repeatedly since his lackadaisical efforts in our post-season games back in June -- as well as unkept promises of changes within the team after our crushing loss to Southampton in the first half of the season, Loftus-Cheek only managed 5 appearances - 3 starts and 2 coming from the bench - while Mourinho was still in charge. Matters went from bad to worse when the realization set in that the young man's contract was expiring in 18 months.  The "tough love" approach by Mourinho coupled with a lack of first team chances weren't doing the situation any favours.

Mourinho's departure didn't immediately improve the outlook for Loftus-Cheek, but eventually he did get a few opportunities from Guus Hiddink.  Stamina was still a problem for the 20-year-old Englishman, exacerbated by his lack of match fitness from the first half of the season, and he was finding a bit of trouble trying to assert himself against non-youth opposition. Nevertheless, the Chelsea Academy product finally signed a new five-year deal in February, with the rumoured wages ranging from £40,000 to £60,000-per-week.

Loftus-Cheek finished the season with 17 appearances (7 starts) and driven by our restless desires to see "one of our own" make it at the club for the first time in two decades, was even almost voted the WAGNH Player of the Year.  Make no mistake however, there is true, immense talent here.  The key is trying to unlock it.

The Good: Loftus-Cheek's first Premier League goal of his career, scored against Aston Villa in our 4-0 win over the relegated side. All in all a great showing from the Boy in Blue (who wore black at the time).

The (not so) Bad: Performances such as the last match of the season, against Leicester City, failing to influence proceedings on the ball and not working hard enough off the ball.

Verdict: Given how badly things went not only for Loftus-Cheek but for Chelsea in general in the first half of the season, it's safe to assume that he could have gotten more playing time - and possibly developed a bit further - had he went on loan along with other Chelsea prospects either to another Premier League club or abroad.  The increased opportunities in the second half of the season were more than welcome.

The big question remains what will be Loftus-Cheek's main position as a professional player. Having come through the academy as a central midfielder, nowadays both club and country seem intent on deploying him further forward, as a No.10.  And yet his size, his style, and his skillset seem far more suited to a box-to-box role, in the mould of a Paul Pogba.  Hopefully there is a proper plan for his development in place.

The other big question is whether to keep him at the club and see if Conte can help him make the same leap that Paul Pogba did under his guidance, or whether to take a few more guaranteed minutes somewhere else on loan.  Either way, it's a difficult decision, and if Chelsea get this wrong, it will be yet another stick with which to (justifiably? unjustifiably?) beat Michael Emenalo.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the We Ain't Got No History Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Chelsea news from We Ain't Got No History