For sixty minutes on Wednesday Ruben Loftus-Cheek played his best football of the season, possibly of his senior team career.
He was delivering a man-of-the match performance — and he was doing it as a forward (until a series of substitutions eventually moved him back to midfield.)
Antonio Conte saw him as a forward. Increasingly, so too has Maurizio Sarri.
But RLC himself? Midfield, please.
“I see myself as a midfielder. That’s where I want to be as I take my career forward. Right now I’m happy to play anywhere, right wing, left wing. I covered a lot of positions today (against Bournemouth).
“I’m happy to do it wherever. And I’ll give it my best. I think I’m effective if it’s coming from deep or getting it higher up and making combinations and getting shots off.”
Ruben Loftus-Cheek; source: Chelsea TV
At 22 years of age, there’s still a little time to figure out Ruben’s best position. But after years of anticipation, it looks very much like he’s finally making the case that he deserves to be considered for the starting lineup every time out.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek's game by numbers vs. Bournemouth:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 19, 2018
63 passes (86% accuracy)
4 take ons completed
3 chances created
1 shot hit woodwork
1 aerial duel won
Point. Proven. pic.twitter.com/wkoBWatQYh
He was a locked-in starter for every Europa League match in the group stage. And he started the last two Carabao Cup matches.
But until the beginning of December, he wasn’t even making the bench for Chelsea’s Premier League matches, with Maurizio Sarri worried about his grasp of tactics (and defensive responsibilities.) Now he’s made five consecutive appearances in the league.
He points to his experiences on loan to Crystal Palace last season, and with the England team at the World Cup, as giving him the push he needed to fight for his place at Chelsea.
“After a season at Palace I felt I really matured, I got to see what the Premier League was like playing week-in, week out. At Palace we had to fight a lot. I really think I learned the way to fight and grind out games.
“After the World Cup I was ready to come back and fight for a place at Chelsea. The start of the season was difficult but I’m getting chances now and I’m just looking to do the best I can.”
The quality of play he showed against a fiesty Premier League opponent, Bournemouth, in the League Cup on Wednesday suggests that the day may not be far off when Loftus-Cheek starts a Premier League match — favored over not a midfielder, but over Willian and Pedro upfront.