Ruben Loftus-Cheek may not yet be having the sort of impact at first-team club level that we have envisioned him having ever since those post-season tour performances against Manchester City in 2013, but on Monday he once again showed that he’s certainly above the under-21 level at this point, putting in a dominant, imperious shift for England U21 against Denmark in a friendly. This should not be surprising from the player named the under-21 Toulon Tournament’s best player last summer, when he led England to their first title in the competition since 1994.
That's six goals in his last seven England U21 appearances for Loftus-Cheek. Denmark have been poor but also have no idea how to handle him.— Chelsea Youth (@chelseayouth) March 27, 2017
Playing as the no.10 behind Cauley Woodrow, Loftus-Cheek scored England’s first and last goals in the 4-0 trouncing, setting up Solly March for another in between for good measure. (England’s fourth came from former Chelsea prospect John Swift. Tammy Abraham was a late sub while Chalobah and Baker remained on the bench throughout. Izzy Brown had withdrawn earlier though injury.)
The first goal was straightforward enough, with a cool finish from a cutback, but the second really showed RLC at his best, driving forward and setting up the attack, then finding the pocket of space in which to turn and fire home.
After the win, England U21 boss Aidy Boothroyd lavished a bit of measured praise on the Chelsea youngster.
“He was excellent. If he continues to stay fit he will be something else. He played 90 minutes and he is a really talented young guy. He is the type of player who can win a game on his own and if we can get the other part of his game into him he will be some prospect. The other countries will not fancy playing against him this summer.”
-Aidy Boothroyd; source: Mail
The trouble of course is that the “other part of his game” will only improve with game-time, game-time which he hasn’t been getting regularly, in part because of the other part of his game. It’s the central dilemma to any young player’s development.
So far this season, Loftus-Cheek has played a little over 300 minutes for Chelsea, most of those in the League and FA Cup. He did make a surprise appearance last weekend against Stoke City, coming on late to help the Blues find a late winner and collect all three points. Hopefully he’ll get a few more opportunities towards the end of the season, just as he did last year, to continue his development. He is still just 21, so there’s time still to help him change the narrative regarding Chelsea’s youth development.