After a successful Premier League season at Crystal Palace and a decent, if limited, showing at the World Cup with England, expectations have never been higher for young Ruben Loftus-Cheek. Now back at Chelsea, the 22-year-old is expected to challenge for a first-team spot. He even returned from holidays a week early to get some extra training with new head coach Maurizio Sarri.
This seemed to pay off with a 22-minute substitute appearance in Chelsea’s first match of the season. But Loftus-Cheek was not even on the bench over the weekend (was replaced by Mateo Kovacic), which has led to a sudden burst of fresh speculation over his future ... even though it is far too early to draw any definite conclusions from this situation.
“It depends on the position on the pitch. I prefer to have on the bench two wingers, and only one midfielder. So it depends on this. Not any other situation. I needed on the bench one goalkeeper (Caballero), one full-back (Zappacosta), one centre-back (Christensen), maybe two midfielders and only one winger, but yesterday I preferred vice versa, two wingers (Hazard, Moses) and one midfielder (Kovacic).”
-Maurizio Sarri; source: F365
This scenario is likely to play out over and over this season, which means that Loftus-Cheek (and all the other midfielders) have a big fight on their hands for quality playing time. That’s how it should be at a club of Chelsea’s stature (or the stature to which we should aspire to). So while RLC could leave on loan still before the end of the month, the hope is that he stays and successfully fights for his place.
RLC’s status is a tricky one. He needs regular playing time to develop, but he also needs to be challenged with that playing time to properly develop. Playing with better players is also helpful. And while he could find some of that in Spain, Germany, or France, staying (and playing) in England would also be helpful for his national team prospects.
According to reports in both the Guardian and the Telegraph, Chelsea want Ruben to stay and fight. At least until January.