Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s first Premier League start for Chelsea this season (and first since April of 2016) looked like it might have a fairy-tale ending. He scored a deflected goal in the 18th minute and with Chelsea in control, it seemed like all three points were in the bag.
But the fairy tale turned into a horror story when the Blues fell behind in the space of three second-half minutes and never came close to changing the outcome.
Maurizio Sarri said he was mystified by Chelsea’s inability to respond. Ruben had his own ideas about the nature of the problem.
“We felt in control first half, felt comfortable and were playing some good football. But they came out fast second half and we were sloppy as a team. In the Premier League, if you’re sloppy you pay for it and that’s what happened.”
Loftus-Cheek was among Chelsea’s better players on the night — his goal was his sixth in his last seven appearances in all competitions, and he led the team in take-ons, headers won, and interceptions — but the team failed to live up to expectations in terms of quality, effort, and determination, especially in the second half.
Similar effort against Manchester City on Saturday will result in a scoreline a lot grislier than 2-1.
“We train every day as a team and we should expect to play well whoever plays. We have to take this loss and turn it around quickly because we have a tough game on the weekend. We need to move on very quickly.
”We’re very disappointed, it’s a period with a lot of games and points at stake. We’ll pick our heads up and go again.”
-Ruben Loftus-Cheek; source: Goal
Certainly a mature attitude from the 22-year-old, who’s been the beneficiary of Ross Barkley’s ankle injury, getting minutes that might not have gone to him otherwise, and taking advantage of them. His play against Fulham and Wolves certainly hasn’t hurt his standing with Sarri. Whether he or Barkley or Kovačić plays on the weekend remains to be seen, and that alone is credit to Ruben for working his way into the rotation.
It takes talent to get to the top, but character to stay there, as a famous basketball coach once said. Loftus-Cheek is showing both the talent and the character needed. With Chelsea’s mentality often called into question, we could certainly use a bit more of both.