Ruben-Loftus-Cheek

Made in Chelsea – Ruben Loftus-Cheek

Oct 17 • Academy, Featured, Joe Tweeds, Player Features • 28516 Views • 7 Comments

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Here, @JoeTweeds looks at Mourinho’s recent comments about establishing a homegrown blue core and how that might (or should) become a reality sooner than we imagine.

Patience is certainly not a virtue amongst modern Chelsea fans. The instant dismissal of André Schürrle, the overbearing weight of expectation placed upon a team in transition and the questioning of almost every decision seem to be the prevalent themes of 2013/14. José Mourinho is unquestionably a superb coach and manager, but even he will need time to shape this team into something capable of consistently winning league titles. Even more if he is to rebuild with a core “made in Chelsea.”

This attitude of immediacy presents an interesting dichotomy between those demanding instant success and wanting us to increasingly give chances to young players. There will naturally be teething issues throwing in young players at the deep end. Likewise, the task of bringing through academy graduates is made all the more difficult when buying established players in their role. Chelsea fans seemingly want everything at the risk of nothing – football does not work like that.

Our striking issues are well documented, but it is in midfield where I feel we lack the quality to dominate. Recent newspaper stories linking us with a move for Paul Pogba (if you subscribe to the no smoke without fire rule) signal the intent to strength this area in January. Marco van Ginkel’s injury probably lends some credence to this and our Belgian connection will see some interest in Axel Witsel surface.

Considering all the noise around the “play the youth, but we need to win now and we’ll give you 5 games to prove yourself” brigade, is the answer to our midfield quandary closer to home? I should qualify that I subscribe to a stream of thought that thinks players will naturally play better in a more high quality environment. Josh McEachran has always looked decent in a Chelsea shirt, but struggles when away from the club.

Ross Barkley performed poorly on loan at Leeds and is now shining at Everton with a World Cup spot likely. Andros Townsend similarly looked okay on loan and has now become a far better player at Tottenham. What point is there in having one of the most successful academies in the world (based on age group performances, not necessarily on first team graduates) if we do not occasionally use them?

While the topic of loaning players is quite sensitive amongst Chelsea fans (insert something about Lukaku), strangely it is not the only way to push your way into the first team. Loans can have an adverse effect; see Kakuta/McEachran/Bruma et al., who fared similar to Barkley. The difference is that Everton still persisted with the player after a disappointing spell: Chelsea washes their hands of them.

A highly unlikely alternative is to actually place trust in one academy player, circumventing the intransient loan cycle. The prototypical Mourinho player – athletic, powerful, technical and intelligent – is currently ticked by at least one academy player. Standing 6’3″ and in every inch a stylistic replica of Michael Ballack, Ruben Loftus-Cheek should be looking to make his mark on the first team shortly.

Are we seriously going to invest £40m in Paul Pogba when we arguably have someone who could develop into something greater? Pogba famously quipped that he decided to leave United when despite him being the only recognised midfielder available he still started on the bench. While we are not quite at those depths, a change of pace and a glimmer of hope for the academy might well be the shot in the arm we need.

Ruben’s performance against Manchester City, albeit in a friendly, was beyond the realms of mere promise. Winning several physical duels with Yaya Touré, resulting in the Ivorian becoming clearly frustrated and kicking him off the park, RLC certainly held his own. He glided past high calibre players, played incisive passes and tackled everything that came his way; certainly the outstanding midfielder on the pitch.

His technical ability on the ball is certainly better than any current Chelsea player. Possessing the strength, athletic quality and end product to cruise around midfield he does strike as the embodiment of the modern midfielder. There are strong signs of him becoming the powerful box-to-box presence that we have lacked since the departure of Ballack and the physical decline of Essien.

Speaking with @chelseayouth about RLC he said that “he’s impacting most games” and that he “dominates physically, running the show and looks intent on making the next step.” When looking at how he has fared against adults he pointed out that “it was noticeable in pre-season against a load of non-league teams – yes, they are poorer in quality but they are adult males playing against teenagers – that he was miles ahead of them.”

Loftus-Cheek’s biggest advantage, however, is that he is not all power and physique, but a fantastic technician. A Chelsea player since he was 8 years old he has been coached in a way that has focused purely on his technical game and positional intelligence. The fact he resembles the archetypal modern central midfielder physically only accentuates his superior ability on the ball.

While we persist with the double pivot in midfield there will always be an imbalance with the current options. Playing Mikel and Ramires loses technical quality going forward; Mikel and Lampard lose athletic quality defensively and Ramires and Lampard lose positional quality in terms of screening the back four effectively. Van Ginkel may well provide a well-rounded option eventually but injury has curtailed what would have been a season of learning for him.

What Loftus-Cheek brings to the equation is a comfort and education in every facet of midfield play. The “6-8-10″ rotation of Chelsea’s youth sides has been crucial in this development. Players are encouraged to play the 6 (holding), 8 (box-to-box) and 10 (playmaker) role in different games. This is noticeable when watching the fluidity of the U21 midfield play and the contrasting roles they will operate in on a week-by-week basis.

This education means RLC is not only well versed in the defensive aspects of the ball, but he is comfortable enough to transition play through all phases of midfield. His performance against Manchester City was an illustration of what a modern central midfielder should be doing. He broke play up, carried the ball through midfield, used possession wisely and dictated the game. Consistently excellent at U21 level and a dominant figure in his age group internationally, maybe we have finally found a direct to squad academy player.

Who knows, we might save ourselves a few quid?

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7 Responses to Made in Chelsea – Ruben Loftus-Cheek

  1. Adeyemi Timothy says:

    I ve heard a lot about this kid, Chalobah, Aanholt, McEachran. Jose should blood them before buying expensive players that will end up as failure #Torres

  2. S R V King says:

    It’s a risk that Chelsea don’t seem prepared to make. Hopefully he and a few others (Christensen, Boga, Ake, and Baker) get a proper chance against Arsenal in the league cup and excel, otherwise prior form suggests little will change. That Chelsea were not prepared to give Chalobah, a real chance this year, coming off an excellent loan season, when our midfield is the weak point does not bode well for RLC considering their similar physical strengths and technical capabilities (although RLC’s is probably stronger in both areas for his age.) Chalobah appears to be scheduled in for next year and the varying comments from Emenalo and co seem to suggest they believe the academy players should be coming into the first team as ready made performers aged around 20, 21 when Oscar and Hazard are in their prime which implies a fair wait (and a waste of a good few years excellent service) from the likes of RLC.

    More troubling is the situation facing Jeremie Boga, the seventh in line attacking midfielder behind the sixth who was Belgium’s outstanding performer in world cup qualifying KDB (Age 22), with the 5th being Willian (25), 4th Schurrle (23), 3rd Mata (25) 2nd Hazard (22) and 1st Oscar (22). I agree with @ChelseaYouth that Boga is the most talented youth player I’ve ever seen and in my opinion at almost any other club would be pushing for games already before his 17th birthday, as it is he hasn’t a chance and if I were him if he isn’t a permanent part of the first team squad by 18 I’d say thanks a lot your coaching is brilliant but I’m off to somewhere like Southampton where I can play regularly while having secure roots, not the insecurity of being on loan.

    Now that brings me to poor old Josh McCeachran who in terms of natural talent I put above all of Chelsea’s recent products bar Boga. The sad thing is I recently watched back the highlights of the 2010 FA youth cup final and I was amazed by how good he was, he really was better at 17 than 20 and his physique has hardly changed at all, the main difference is his confidence on the ball which you can still see on EskWeston’s archive of 2011/12 clips at the beginning and then he took the joint hit of AVB having no interest in him what so ever, directly contrasting with Carlo’s great support (how I wish he hadn’t been sacked, he really did take risks for the youth team on players who probably weren’t good enough, but at least he gave them a chance) and his disastrous spell at Swansea which unluckily coincided with Sigurdsson’s excellent form. I agree wholeheartedly that his loaning to the championship is not good enough for a player of his talent, while his dribbling may not be as frequent or instinctive, his passing is as imaginative as ever, but his style of angled passing needs angled runs and players of equal intelligence who can help one another, his passing is beyond most Championship players as was Barkley’s and it makes downright depressing viewing. Ironically McCeachran probably would fit in well with Martinez at Everton, if only we could persuade Martinez to do a swap loan deal in January.

    For all this though Boga, Chalobah, RLC and McCeachran have as good a chance as anyone can get of making it at Chelsea, because they are all exceptional and brilliantly coached talent . Now can we please try playing them, just a few times please, against Swindon (Tottenham B) maybe? Or maybe not.

    On the matter of our current midfield, the whole system of the 2-3 in midfield depends on the deep lying midfielders getting the ball to the three in dangerous positions and having the technical quality to back them up in possession. Our offensive success depends on the three and the three’s success depends on the pivot (a quick aside on the three, can Cech please stop kicking the ball up to Mata, Hazard and Oscar to try to win headers, unsurprisingly we very rarely get any useful possession out of this and often end up in bad positions that if you take them all the way back started with a defensive lump) Now to ignore all the defensive work of the pivot for a moment none of Lampard, Ramires, Mikel, or Essien is suited to job of consistently finding the three, McCeachran, Chalobah, and RLC all are and I think RLC and Ramires would be a very difficult proposition to defend against, although a rather easier one to attack, RLC with the ballast of Mikel might be interesting, but the point is good that RLC offers a more subtle yet still powerful skill set and one we badly need, but unfortunately he comes from our academy so he can’t be as good as someone from someone else’s academy and certainly not as exotic, perhaps we should pay his parents £30 million so we can say he’s a 30 mill player and must start.

  3. Pls don’t forget patrick bamford

  4. John says:

    Quite a few good points made already. I love Jose but it is not blind and he and the management in General have disappointed with squad management this year. Ake, Christensen, Boga, Baker… Agreed all the closest to first team and should be in the squad shortly, picking up minutes if possible. To achieve this we have failed to sell players who have passed the age of 23 but no longer have the potential to be world class… Mikel, Essien, Moses, Marin, Ba, etc. enjoy watching the youngsters on CTV and we have at least another dozen hot prospects to nurture… We should have 2 on the bench most weeks really.

  5. until someone does make it, it’s just speculation i think. like you said, mceachran has never put a foot wrong in a chelsea shirt, same can be said about ake in the few chances he got last season, piazon in that game vs villa was exceptional (albeit we won 8-0) and to a lesser extent, we can also say bertrand could get more game time. it’s a fact that we can probably name half a dozen players who if they played for arsenal or man utd, would have got senior caps already for their club. saying that though, i do think it will become a domino effect eventually. as soon as one makes it through, i think the whole academy will gain the trust and gradually see more and more graduate players. i know it won’t happen cause we’re chelsea but could easily have 4/5 academy players in the squad in a few years time.

  6. Mathias says:

    Before the season started Mourinho said that this time it was young players and youth development which was important but he never really played the “young” ones, we saw Azpilicueta,MVG,Kalas,Lukaku,Bertrand,Chalobah all getting benched/ loaned out and he plays the old guys. Yes we need people that is older than 22years old but having Lampard play 3 times a week and playing very badly but yet still keeps his spot due to what i imagine is favortism from Mourinho’s side for sure is frustrating atleast for me. Cole has been playing very poorly too and yet Bertrand havent had a fair go, Azpilicueta who has looked much better than Ivanovic playing RB has not really gotten any decent game time so far this season :( Do keep in mind he was playing the confed cup final for spain and he cant get a start at Chelsea even tho his impressive display last seasons, it is not like Ivanovic is overly impresive as a RB tbh he is much better as a CD which he showed last time but that means Terry needs to be benched if Kalas/Ivan should play as a CD and this is where favortism comes in once again :/ Even Lukaku couldnt get a fair shot as a striker before being sent on loan and im sorry to say but Torres/Ba has been freaking horrible for us while Lukaku has scored more goals than all our strikers in his first 3 matches at Everton, ofc its much harder to score when playing at Chelsea cause teams park the bus but he cannot score if he dont get the chance.

    My point is Mourinho cant hold his words (so far) cause he favors the players he knew from the first time around much more than the others even tho the oldies dosent play well, for example Lampard right now is a big liabliity in the pivot as he neglects his offensive duties even Oscar often comes back to defend before Lampard does and he plays one link ahead of him. When only playing 2 CM’s it is very important that both of them can contribute in both areas while still being defensively diciplined but when Lampard plays in the pivot we always gets big problems. We can hardly control the midfield against lower rated teams even tho we should roll over them with both eyes closed, we are having trouble keeping the ball when we should be able to pass it around and tire out the opponents we often ends up losing it or as what most often happends is that Ramires or Lampard pass it all the way back to the defenders/Cech and we gotta start all over. But the worst think really is that we are EXTREAMLY vulnerable against Counter attacks and we very often concedes goals to it cause Lampard is running around in the oppositions box instead of helping Ramires to break up the game, press the ball holder, mark players etc cause he dont have the legs to run back and help.

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