Ruben Loftus-Cheek, the Prince Who Was Promised, appears to have, at long last, established himself as a proper Chelsea first-team player. The 23-year-old Academy graduate, who made his debut four managers ago — and held his own against Yaya Touré a year prior, even, in a post-season friendly — only to spend the next four years on the fringes of the first-team and out on loan for a season as well, has beaten out heavy competition in Mateo Kovačić and Ross Barkley as the preferred first-choice starter over the past couple months.
While RLC has obviously worked hard and impressed when given a chance, he knows that in this game of minutes, things aren’t always as they may seem. Grand plans and prognostications often turn into poorly plotted episodes and tons of head-scratching decisions, but at least with the current manager, Ruben feels that he’s gotten honest feedback.
“[Sarri’s words] makes me feel really good and he always gives me confidence. He is honest with me and he has been honest with me all season, told me what I needed to get better at to play and I had to work hard. Now I am playing more so it gives me great confidence but I still keep my head down and work.”
“I played a lot on the wing at the start of the season, more offensively, and he said I needed to get better at defensive awareness, pressing better which I have been trying to do in training...”
Of course, not every circumstance can be controlled, and injuries have played a large role in Loftus-Cheek’s young career. But part of what has helped him maintain fitness has been playing regularly, right alongside a new fitness management routine and awareness of potential issues.
“I think it helps when you are fitter. I am getting fitter because I am playing more, so that comes hand in hand, and I am getting better.”
“I have worked really hard on [the back issue] with the physios and it is something I have had since I was 16 or 17, so I have had to deal with it. But I feel the best I have felt, so I just need to carry on what I am doing, just manage it with the physios and hopefully it will be alright. I think it will.”
Loftus-Cheek didn’t start on Sunday after picking up a cramp towards the end of Thursday’s game, but N’Golo Kanté’s injury in the 10th minute meant that RLC’s stay in the bench would be short-lived. While it took Chelsea until the second-half to find a good forward gear, RLC played a great role in the eventual 3-0 victory, including yet another goal that gives him more goals than any other midfielder on the team (despite playing half their minutes overall).
One more goal would take Loftus-Cheek into double-digits. Thursday sounds like a grand time for it. Chelsea bring a 1-1 away draw into the second leg at Stamford Bridge against Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League semifinal.
“I am really looking forward to it. The atmosphere at their stadium was magnificent but to take it back to the Bridge with an away goal puts us in good stead. We have to be focused and I am sure we will do well.”
-Ruben Loftus-Cheek; source: Chelsea FC
So say we all!