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Goals are great, but Sarri wants more from ‘wonderful’ Ruben Loftus-Cheek

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Otherwise he won’t crack the lineup on a regular basis

Chelsea v FC BATE Borisov - UEFA Europa League - Group L Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

Maurizio Sarri may be a relaxed coach, but his players always know where they stand with him.

So while Ruben Loftus-Cheek was in the dressing room celebrating his hat-trick against BATE Borisov, his manager was telling the media that he needs more from the gifted 24 year-old.

“He played very, very well. In the offensive phase wonderful. I told him at the beginning of the season I thought he was really a very good player. Now I think the same, but now he’s now more suitable to my football. He’s improving. He needs to improve in the defensive phase, but it’s not only Loftus.”

Sarri looks at his pool of midfielders at Chelsea and he sees numbers and he sees goals. What he doesn’t see, except in N’Golo Kante, is the eagerness to defend that he demands. Sarri-ball may be predicated on a deep-lying regista in the center (i.e. Jorginho or Fabregas), but it’s useful if one of the other midfielders has a knack for actual defending as well (i.e. Kante or Napoli’s Allan), leaving the third to take care advanced playmaking.

That’s why, when he was asked if RLC’s performance on Thursday would give him a selection problem, Sarri gave a qualified answer, realizing that while the fans adore Ruben and the idea of a homegrown star, selecting him is not nearly as automatic as getting lost in the euphoria of “one of our own”.

“I like very much this type of problem. He’s a very good player. I have a little problem as I have to put 11 players in the starting XI and I have 28 players. It’s a little problem and I don’t know how to solve it.”

“I know that the fans love him, of course. He was in the academy so that’s normal. My problem remains the same. It’s very difficult to solve the tactical problem without an improvement in the defensive phase with these three midfielders. We can try and we will work, but I need the cooperation of the players.”

-Maurizio Sarri; source: Football.London

So the next time we see a lineup and RLC isn’t in it, despite his thrilling display of skill and goals against BATE — during which he spent many a break in play with Sarri in his ear — the reason why won’t be a mystery.