Olivier Giroud may have grabbed most of the goals and post-match headlines, but all eyes were on Chelsea’s academy duo of Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi, who started together for the fourth time this season, and just like in the previous three occasions, impressed — just as we would all expect them to.
Thursday’s 5-0 win thus joins the 4-0 win over PAOK, the 2-2 draw with Vidi FC, and the 2-0 win over Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup as the first steps in what will hopefully be a long-term RLC-CHO double-act in the Chelsea attacking midfield.
Afterwards, even Grumpasaurus Sarri has to admit that the kids are alright. In fact, Loftus-Cheek just might be more than alright. He could go to the top, right to the very top.
“He did very well. He is improving in the last month. He has been able to train after the problem with the back. He had a wonderful match and I’m really happy he could play for 90 minutes.
”His potential as a player is very, very, high. Physically, technically and tactically he is improving, he can become one of the best midfielders not only in England but in Europe.”
-Ruben Loftus-Cheek; source: BT Sport via Goal
Loftus-Cheek was making his first start in over two months after a recurrence of his long-term back injury limited him in training and resigned him to just substitute appearances (ten of them in the last twelve games). If he can keep healthy, he can resume his quest to live up to his amazing potential as a rarely seen combination of size, strength, skill, and vision. Despite those injuries and a glut of midfielders available to Sarri, Ruben has managed to put together a solid season of regular minutes, which means that hopefully his narrative has once and for all shifted away from constant chatter about his Chelsea future to constant chatter about his future at Chelsea.
Trailing behind Loftus-Cheek in appearances, age, but not potential is young Callum Hudson-Odoi, whose future has become perhaps the most important question for Chelsea to figure now that everyone seems to have accepted that Eden Hazard will be leaving for Real Madrid in the summer.
Hudson-Odoi has been featuring far more often since Bayern’s January approach — yesterday was his 12th appearance in our last 18 games (although just his 5th start) — and as he has done more often than not, got on the scoresheet with a goal and assist each. He’s now scored in three straight Europa League games and has 5 goals and 4 assists on the season in less than 900 minutes.
Grumpasaurus Sarri has been actively working against giving into the hype, and having spent his happy ammo on Loftus-Cheek, urged once again to temper the expectations and the supposed “pressure” on young Hudson-Odoi.
“He played very well — better in the second half because we found the spaces and Callum in the spaces is really a very good player. I’m happy for him, but he has to keep the feet on the ground because he can improve more.”
-Maurizio Sarri; source: BT Sport via ESPN
You can’t keep your feet on the ground in space, silly man!