Ruben Loftus-Cheek now has five goals on the season, and even though that number is boosted by the statistical outlier of a potentially once-in-a-lifetime hat-trick against BATE, the two goals he’s scored in his limited amount of Premier League minutes is a significant development.
Goals from midfield have been in relatively short supply in recent years, and the three from Ross Barkley so far this season have been a key reason he’s been challenging Mateo Kovačić for playing time. Kovačić, a key summer (loan) signing for Sarri’s system, may be the more highly regarded midfielder, with a technique and vision to rival any in the world, but Barkely’s dynamism adds a missing dimension whenever he’s called upon.
#Barkley has a minor injury, picked up from the last game. Not worth being risked with so many matches coming up https://t.co/WGyETCNumo— Simon Johnson (@sjstandardsport) December 2, 2018
But Barkley was missing in action against Fulham, having picked up a minor ankle injury in the Thursday match against PAOK, so when Kovačić hobbled off with a couple knocks of his own in he second-half, the man called upon was Ruben Loftus-Cheek instead.
on for Kovacic, who is hobbling slightly but says to Sarri that he is okay as he takes a place on the bench #cfc https://t.co/BQmFmuBz3d— Simon Johnson (@sjstandardsport) December 2, 2018
RLC was one of the best players against PAOK, too, and he’s continued his strong form with a dynamic display of his own, taking on defenders, creating for himself and for others, and, in the final ten minutes, putting the match to bed with well-taken finish after being involved in the flowing build-up to it. A perfect bit of midfieldering from the 22-year-old.
LOFTUS-CHEEK GOALLL 2-0 pic.twitter.com/keddmXnO1l— CM (@CFCJorg) December 2, 2018
His manager agreed.
“In the last three weeks he has solved me problems. In the Europa League it was the best performance from the tactical point of view. I put him on the pitch without problems and sure about his performance.”
-Maurizio Sarri; source: Football.London
With games coming thick and fast, even more rotation in midfield than usual will be expected. Loftus-Cheek served notice today that he should be considered right near the top of that rotation.
“It was a tough game, with a new manager for them; they were looking more solid. We needed that second goal to get that cushion, as they looked dangerous at times.”
“When I get the opportunity, I try to do my best. Today, I got the opportunity after I did well on Thursday so I tried to do my best and got the goal. [The manager told me] to me to do my bit offensively — to get in the box and try to get a goal — but also make sure I do my defensive work as [Fulham] were dangerous especially towards the end.”
-Ruben Loftus-Cheek; source: Sky
Well done, Ruben!