As we continue our recap from the transfer window, we look at some Ruben Loftus-Cheek news from the summer. The English youngster joined Crystal Palace on loan for the season in search of first team football. Competition for a place in the Chelsea first team is high so Loftus-Cheek’s opportunities did look limited. Is Crystal Palace a good move though?
We take a closer look at Loftus-Cheek and his loan move to Crystal Palace…
Nationality: 0 caps (U21 17 appearances 7 goals)
Position: centre midfielder, can play defensive or attacking midfield
Transfer Fee: Loan
Contract Length: 1 year
2016/17 League Stats: 0 starts (6 sub appearances) 0 goals (0 assists)
2017/18 League Stats: 4 starts (0 sub appearances) 0 goals (0 assists)
So Ruben Loftus-Cheek joined the vast list of players loaned out by Chelsea. Like so many players on Chelsea’s books, he has struggled to get much game time.
Last season Loftus-Cheek only managed 26 minutes on the pitch in the league all season. This is compared to over 400 minutes the season before, with 4 starts and 9 substitute appearances. Under Conte, Loftus-Cheek’s limited opportunities became even more limited as the Italian showed even less faith in the younger players.
Chelsea were always likely to strengthen the squad as they returned to European football. Centre midfield was no exception. Tiemoune Bakayoko and Danny Drinkwater were recruited to add competition for the two central midfield positions Conte usually employs. So despite Matic and Chalobah’s sells the prospect of Loftus-Cheek getting much more game time was never going to look much better this season.
In 3 of the 4 starts this season for Crystal Palace, Loftus-Cheek has played in an advanced attacking midfield role.The prospect of featuring there for Chelsea this season didn’t look likely though. Conte likes his attacking midfielders to provide width or least occupy the half space between opposing full back and centre back.
This is a very different role to what he is currently occupying which is more central and more like an orthodox number 10. Chelsea rarely employ such a role, one which Loftus-Cheek is more suited, so the versatility he has shown would have been somewhat wasted on Chelsea’s system this season. He’s not comfortable wider.
All in all it’s not hard to see why Loftus-Cheek has left Chelsea temporarily in search of first team football. It’s a sensible move. Nothing is going to help his development more than first team football.
Crystal Palace’s recording breaking start (for the wrong reasons) has been covered extensively. 0 points and 0 goals in 7 games is pretty dire. Frank De Boer unfairly lost his job after 4 games and now Roy Hodgson has now been appointed in spite of his pitiful performance as England manager which consisted mainly of questionable decision after questionable decision. (Sturridge wide right and Kane taking corners, seriously?!) I worry for Crystal Palace this season.
Hodgson should be more suited to a club like Palace rather than the national team whilst he does have vast experience. I don’t think he’ll keep them up though and in all honesty I wouldn’t be surprised if Palace make another managerial change this season.
Stability and a clear, consistent philosophy of how the club wants to play all season would undoubted be the best case scenario for Loftus-Cheek’s development. There’s also no denying that it would be better if the team was performing well. Unfortunately there’s no guarantees any of that will happen. It hasn’t so far.
However I still believe Loftus-Cheek can learn a lot from this loan spell which will stand him in good stead for the future if he applies the right kind of attitude.
Chelsea are well known for changing managers so experiencing different managerial styles at Crystal Palace this season could help him adapt in future. Whilst a relegation battle could help build character too. There is a feeling, particularly with young English players, that they have it too easy. They say you learn more from your loses than from your wins…as long as there’s he displays the right attitude and willingness to learn, Loftus-Cheek can still make this loan move a success, on a personal level.
Most importantly though, a young player can’t buy experience and to be playing week in, week out in the Premiership is a huge opportunity regardless of the circumstances. Event taking into account Loftus-Cheek’s huge potential, given his lack of experience, he’s slightly fortunate that his first loan is at a Premiership club.
Crystal Palace’s form has been poor for sometime so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that they look to be heading towards another relegation battle. However their starting XI doesn’t look that bad.
Despite this it’s not a bad move for Loftus-Cheek. Whilst Cabaye, Puncheon, Milivojevic and McArthur in centre midfield provide solid options, Loftus-Cheek is good enough to rival all for a starting place. None should be guaranteed their place if their form drops off.
However, as mentioned earlier, 3 out of Loftus-Cheek’s 4 starts have been in attacking midfield. Jason Puncheon is the only serious competition for this position. Lee Chung-Yong and Bakary Sako don’t look Premiership standard. Therefore it looks like Loftus-Cheek is going to find himself used mostly in an advanced position this season and he’s establishing himself there already.
Puncheon has been moved around either to deeper positions or out wide to cover for injury and absences, giving Loftus-Cheek an even clearer route to the first team. I have to say that it’s looking deserved too.
At times he’s looked like Palace’s main threat and the only one capable of making something happen. His physicality and power is a rarity in an usually technically focused position like the number 10 and he’s given the position and Palace’s attack a new dimension. I get the feeling that if they are to turn their season around or at the least, if they are to register good performances, Loftus-Cheek is going to be at the heart of it. No one else is looking capable.
England are having problems with absentees in recent squads and if the likes of Harry Winks can earn a call up then Loftus-Cheek has a big opportunity to do the same soon too. Centre midfield has been a problem area and he can’t be too far away from deserving a chance if he continues to play for Palace. Not many English players have the prospect of getting the same amount of game time this season. Especially young players with his potential.
Although still raw, Loftus-Cheek has some of the play-making qualities England are lacking. A year or two of consistent Premiership football and who knows he could be seriously knocking on the door. It’s an area England needs to look at as currently Dier and Henderson offer very little, especially offensively.
I’ve been impressed by Loftus-Cheek’s start to this season in difficult circumstances but it’s only been a handful of appearances. There’s still a long way to go this season.
He has a lot of work ahead in future too if he is to get in the Chelsea team and more importantly, stay there. It’s going to require some patience and possibly more loan moves. Even a good season at Palace is unlikely to boost him up Chelsea’s pecking order in midfield much under Conte.
I don’t have any fears for him this season. He’s clearly easily good enough to start for Palace this season so he should be looking at hopefully 30 league starts. I do worry about what will happen when he goes back to Chelsea though. A season back on the bench would undo a lot of the good work he could achieve this season.
Loftus-Cheek is still young enough and has time on his side. He can still have a future at Chelsea but he’s going to need to excel. So many good young players have left Chelsea because of lack of opportunities. Chances are that is what will end up happening with Loftus-Cheek.
Chelsea rate him highly for good reason, it’s just their track record with young talent isn’t great.
Can Loftus-Cheek make it at Chelsea? Is Palace a good temporary move? Leave your thoughts below.