Ruben Loftus-Cheek now has five goals on the season, and even though that number is boosted by the statistical outlier of a potentially once-in-a-lifetime hat-trick against BATE, the two goals he’s scored in his limited amount of Premier League minutes is a significant development.
Goals from midfield have been in relatively short supply in recent years, and the three from Ross Barkley so far this season have been a key reason he’s been challenging Mateo Kova?i? for playing time. Kova?i?, a key summer (loan) signing for Sarri’s system, may be the more highly regarded midfielder, with a technique and vision to rival any in the world, but Barkely’s dynamism adds a missing dimension whenever he’s called upon.
But Barkley was missing in action against Fulham, having picked up a minor ankle injury in the Thursday match against PAOK, so when Kova?i? hobbled off with a couple knocks of his own in he second-half, the man called upon was Ruben Loftus-Cheek instead.
RLC was one of the best players against PAOK, too, and he’s continued his strong form with a dynamic display of his own, taking on defenders, creating for himself and for others, and, in the final ten minutes, putting the match to bed with well-taken finish after being involved in the flowing build-up to it. A perfect bit of midfieldering from the 22-year-old.
His manager agreed.
“In the last three weeks he has solved me problems. In the Europa League it was the best performance from the tactical point of view. I put him on the pitch without problems and sure about his performance.”
With games coming thick and fast, even more rotation in midfield than usual will be expected. Loftus-Cheek served notice today that he should be considered right near the top of that rotation.
“It was a tough game, with a new manager for them; they were looking more solid. We needed that second goal to get that cushion, as they looked dangerous at times.”
“When I get the opportunity, I try to do my best. Today, I got the opportunity after I did well on Thursday so I tried to do my best and got the goal. [The manager told me] to me to do my bit offensively — to get in the box and try to get a goal — but also make sure I do my defensive work as [Fulham] were dangerous especially towards the end.”