After thirteen months out, thanks to a torn Achilles and a pandemic, Ruben Loftus-Cheek made his belated competitive return for Chelsea yesterday, as he was named a (surprise) starter in what eventually turned out to be a rousing 2-1 comeback win for the Blues.
Unfortunately, Loftus-Cheek looked every bit a player who hadn’t seen competitive action for over a year: timid, lost, ineffective if not worse, a hindrance. Deployed on the left flank, nominally, he managed to just about nullify Chelsea’s own attacking impetus up that side for the 55 minutes of action he saw. Most expected him to be withdrawn at half-time, but Lampard kept him on, probably as nothing more than a morale and confidence boost, despite Chelsea losing 1-0 at the time.
Those were the obvious negatives.
On the plus side — and it’s a plus side with a tremendous up-side, too — Loftus-Cheek came through unscathed, Chelsea got all three points, and now we can continue to build on this game, both as a team and individually for the 24-year-old midfielder who remains unique thanks to his glorious combination of skills, smarts, and size.
After the game, Lampard chose to concentrate on the positives as well.
“Yes, good [performance]. I am delighted for Ruben to be back in the fold and he has got in the team on his own merit on the way that he works well, over a long time now. In the last three or four weeks since he has been back training, he has looked good and he has looked strong.
“We have to give him a little bit of time to adapt. I felt it was a good game to bring his physicality and something a bit different. Again, the flip of having Christian to bring on was great for me.
“I am delighted for Ruben and he is going to get better. It has been such a long time and he has so much to give us as a team and a squad. There were glimpses of it today and there’s much more to come.”
-Frank Lampard; source: Football.London
Hopefully you heeded our advice about managing expectations and/or aren’t one of the mindless mongrels on social media who decided to start lambasting RLC already. Twitter’s gonna Twitter of course, and it’s best ignored.
In the real world, we’ve got Ruben back and it’s good. Over a year out is no joke, regardless of player or type of injury, and Ruben’s was quite serious. Once he gets back up to full speed — which, again, might take a few months at least — he’s going to be back to his glorious self again (provided he manages to stay healthy, which unfortunately does remain a big concern given his pre-Achilles history).