Ruben Loftus-Cheek may have been the first Chelsea player to be substituted in last night’s 2-0 win over West Ham, but that was by no means because of a bad performance. Instead, it was probably because of the continuing concerns over his back injury that’s plagued him for the last few months (and the last few years), which Chelsea physios continue to work hard to manage properly. So as pleased as he was with a second consecutive start, Ruben admitted that he’s also still not at peak physical condition.
“My back feels good so I’m really happy with that and it’s two games in a row for me for the first time in a while. I know physically that I’m not going to be at my peak condition right now but I’m doing my best and I think that will come with the more games I play.”
-Ruben Loftus-Cheek; source: Chelsea FC
One can only imagine how dominant Loftus-Cheek would’ve been without the dodgy back! So sorry, Declan “all the narratives” Rice!
RLC provided one assist (ed.note: although that first goal was all Hazard), created three chances created (ed.note: dubious stat alert!) added two key passes (ed.note: doubly dubious stat alert!), while also completing five dribbles. The number may not be as impressive as his hat-trick earlier in the season but this was against pretty decent opposition.
Loftus-Cheek provided exactly what Maurizio Sarri has been asking of Mateo Kovacic and Ross Barkley all season: a midfielder who perfectly complements Kante’s work rate and Jorginho’s passing; a midfielder who shows physicality while also showcasing technical abilities.
In the match against West Ham, Loftus-Cheek did it all. He was physical when he needed to be, he was driving the ball past opposition players rather than passing it sideways and he was constantly using the space made by Eden Hazard, making brilliant runs with and without the ball.
and again. Rice tries yet again to get physical on the tackle, RLC shrugs him off. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ pic.twitter.com/o1pV7cuuLC— amadí (@amadoit__) April 8, 2019
Of course, we shouldn’t get too carried away. His injury proneness remains a concerns and needs to be carefully monitored. For now, his playing time must be carefully managed, unlike with Kante or, to a lesser extent, Jorginho. West Ham also produced very little with the ball, but Chelsea's midfield still opened up too much at times. Better opponents will take advantage of that, and in that defensive aspect Loftus-Cheek is still behind someone like Kovacic.
But for now, we can simply enjoy this performance, as well as his increased involvement, and hope that he can stay injury free to continue on this path to true Chelsea stardom.