Over the last decade, Chelsea’s youth setup has produced many players of high caliber who never got to fulfill their aspirations of representing the first team. Due to frequent managerial changes, many youth players were given fewer opportunities in the first team. It has been fairly recent that Chelsea have started integrating players from their youth academy into the first team.
Since graduating from Chelsea’s academy, Loftus-Cheek was touted by many to become a mainstay in the Blues’ starting XI. He made his debut for the senior team way back in 2014, during Jose Mourinho’s second spell as Chelsea’s manager. But since then, multiple injuries forced him to remain side-lined. And when he did achieve fitness, he was often overlooked.
It was not until the 2018-19 season, when Maurizio Sarri was in charge of the Blues, that Loftus-Cheek started featuring prominently in Chelsea’s starting eleven. He made 24 appearances in the Premier League, scoring six goals and adding a further two assists. He was praised for his performances in Chelsea’s midfield by fans and pundits alike. But just when Loftus-Cheek was starting to cement his spot in Chelsea’s line-up, things again took a turn for the worse as Loftus-Cheek suffered an Achilles injury during a charity match, effectively ruling him out for the season.
Despite Loftus-Cheek’s poor injury record at a young age, Chelsea hierarchy showed faith in him and handed him a new five-year contract. After returning to action in 2020, Loftus-Cheek was loaned out to Fulham, to get game time under his belt. He made his return to a Chelsea side that had just won the Champions League under Thomas Tuchel.
Tuchel had reportedly been an admirer of Loftus-Cheek and likened him to former Chelsea midfielder Michael Ballack. Loftus-Cheek displayed his intent this season by competing for Tuchel’s starting XI, and finally, he is beginning to get opportunities to display the abilities that made him such a highly rated prospect years ago.
Let’s dive into his stats to understand his strengths and gauge if he can finally revive his Chelsea career.
So far this season, Loftus-Cheek has made six appearances in the Premier League in Chelsea’s midfield. His attacking and creativity stats have been impressive, with the majority surpassing the league median value. He has averaged upwards of six dribbles per match with a success rate of 80%, while he also ranks highly in terms of offensive duels won and successful attacking actions. One of Loftus-Cheek’s most remarkable abilities is the utilization of his body to fend off defenders in tight spaces. Loftus-Cheek is often threatening in the final third, where he can exploit spaces in the opposition defense. He is adept at the box-to-box role and can also slot in the defensive midfield position.
Loftus Cheek’s passing and progression stats are equally impressive, with most notable being his passing accuracy, accurate passes into the attacking third, and average progressive runs per match. His positional awareness allows him to bypass the opposition’s press and carry the ball in the opponent’s half. His touch of the ball is also immaculate and he often looks to play quick one-twos with his teammates.
His pass map displays the areas where he delivers his passes. Despite playing six matches, mostly as a substitute, Loftus-Cheek’s pass map is impressive. He is consistently on the move in search of spaces and makes himself available to receive passes from his teammates.
Loftus-Cheek’s heat map displays the areas of the pitch where he is most engaged in. He often progresses in the opponent’s half during the attacking phases while also tracks back to support his defenders. His work rate is also impressive.
Loftus-Cheek has finally been given the chance to revive his Chelsea career. His performances, so far, in the Premier League and the Champions League indicate that he is ready to take the next step and cement himself in Tuchel’s starting eleven. His ball-carrying ability combined with his sublime touch will be an asset for the Blues this season.