Opinion – It is high time for Chelsea to start utilizing this £60,000-a-week midfield enforcer more regularly

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Chelsea should start using Ruben Loftus-Cheek on a more regular basis

Chelsea’s unbeaten run of five games in the Premier League was ended by West Ham United at London Stadium on Sunday, as the Hammers held the Blues to a 0-0 draw. Chelsea tried everything they could to break the deadlock but were unable to find a way past a rather resolute West Ham defence.

This is not the first time that Chelsea have found it difficult to score against sides that sit back and defend deep inside their own half this season. The Blues had a lucky outing against Newcastle United, where they struggled to find openings and had to wait till the 76th minute to score from Eden Hazard’s penalty. It was no different against Bournemouth and it looked like the Blues were heading for a draw until Pedro came on as a substitute and opened the floodgates.

However, they could not repeat the same feat against West Ham on Sunday. Although the Hammers did not have the best defensive record prior to the game and had failed to keep a single clean sheet, Chelsea lacked the penetration to rip apart the resistance offered by a stubborn defensive unit.

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Despite having more than 70% of the possession, Chelsea were unable to convert their territorial domination into something fruitful. Eden Hazard, Willian and Olivier Giroud tried their level best to combine well together and manufacture something out of the ordinary but none of the midfielders made an impact going forward.

Undoubtedly, Jorginho has established himself as one of the best passers of the ball in the Premier League.  He plays a similar role as Jordan Henderson does for Liverpool but he clearly cannot improvise to engineer something brilliant. Although he has a remarkable pass success percentage of 91.1 so far, he seemingly lacks the creativity to set up attacks from his deep position in the midfield.

Meanwhile, N’Golo Kante has looked brighter in a more advanced role this season. However, deploying him in an attacking role hasn’t worked well for Chelsea.

With his game reading ability and physicality, Kante is the ideal box-to-box midfielder. While it is true that he has managed to win the ball in the midfield by dispossessing the opposition and has carried the ball forward with energy, the end product hasn’t been great.

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Mateo Kovacic has played his part as well but hasn’t contributed to the attacking play much. On the other hand, Ruben Loftus-Cheek has been given little game time to make an impact. The 22-year-old, who currently earns £60,000-a-week, came on as a late substitute against Huddersfield Town and Bournemouth and showed glimpses of his brilliance.

It is a pity to see a player of Loftus-Cheek’s calibre warming the benches for such a long time. He has the ability to make things happen from an attacking position in the midfield – and that is something Kovacic, Jorginho and Kante haven’t been able to do on a regular basis.

A player blessed with versatility and dynamism, Loftus-Cheek has the ability to play as an attacking midfielder, central midfielder and a supporting striker in times of need. Not only is he good with his technique and backs himself to take on the defenders to create openings, but he also has a keen eye to pick out the runs of his teammates with incisive through balls. Furthermore, he has impressed with his work rate and tracks back to help the team cope with counter-attacks.

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To sum it up, Loftus-Cheek has all the makings of developing into a complete midfielder in the future. But he needs regular minutes to work on his game and get his act together. Given that he is still in the developmental stage of his career, a lack of playing opportunities is bound to hamper his progress.

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Given that Chelsea have struggled to create opportunities against teams that defend deep, Loftus-Cheek might be the missing link in their midfield and Sarri should look to use him on a more regular basis to spark the creativity. It is high time that Sarri makes use of the talented youngster to turn Chelsea into a more formidable unit.  

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