What Thomas Tuchel shouted at Ruben Loftus-Cheek to help Chelsea secure win over Southampton – Football.London

For the first time in 383 days, Ruben Loftus-Cheek started a game for Chelsea. You sense his next appearance in the Blues side will not be so long in coming.

Loftus-Cheek’s start against Southampton yesterday was a reward for perseverance, dedication, talent and sheer force of will. He could have gone out on loan in the summer, he could have pushed for a permanent move away, yet he has always wanted to reclaim his place in the Chelsea first-team squad that was snatched away from him in May 2019.

The story is well known. For those who have forgotten – or are simply new to Chelsea – Loftus-Cheek had finally blossomed into a key figure in the Blues’ starting XI under Maurizio Sarri only for an Achilles injury sustained during a charity game in the United States to keep him out of action for more than a year.

On his delayed return due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Loftus-Cheek was rusty. So he spent last season on loan at Fulham, who were relegated come the end of the campaign. The Chelsea academy graduate did not earn rave reviews at Craven Cottage, far from it in fact.


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Yet all Loftus-Cheek needed at Fulham was game time. He got that and returned to Chelsea for pre-season with trust in his body once more. That was important.

The 25-year-old impressed in friendly matches but an unfortunately timed positive coronavirus test meant he missed the start of the Premier League season.

Still, he fought his way back and after an impressive appearance in the Carabao Cup against Aston Villa and eye-catching cameos in back-to-back games against Manchester City and Juventus, he was restored to the starting XI ahead of Jorginho.

Loftus-Cheek partnered Mateo Kovacic in central midfield against Southampton. The most defensively-astute of duos? Not quite. But, as always, there was logic to Thomas Tuchel‘s selection.

“We decided to put Ruben because we were aware of their high pressing in midfield but we still wanted to go through midfield,” the Chelsea head coach explained. “Ruben and Kova [Mateo Kovacic] can not only pass but drive with the ball to escape the press. That is the reason we picked them.”

Tuchel is not shy about ensuring his instructions and tactical desires are carried out by those on the field. That was evident throughout yesterday’s game. Ben Chilwell drew the ire of the Chelsea head coach early on while Loftus-Cheek was also given one strict instruction by the German early on.

Inside the opening 15 minutes of the contest, Loftus-Cheek won a free-kick in his own half after he took down a Thiago Silva pass and then shielded the ball from Nathan Redmond. That didn’t please Tuchel.

The Blues head coach shouted across the pitch to get the midfielder’s attention before reiterating three times that Loftus-Cheek needed to turn and play forward rather than taking the safer route. It was taken on board.

Throughout the remainder of his 83 minutes on the pitch, Loftus-Cheek’s first thought was always to try to progress the ball forward or drive into the Southampton half with the ball at his feet.

He completed a team-high four dribbles, per WhoScored, while his two key passes were only bettered by Chilwell, although he took the majority of Chelsea’s set-pieces. Loftus-Cheek also came close to getting on the scoresheet with one rasping half volley that flew wide of Alex McCarthy’s post.

It was an impressive display once more from Loftus-Cheek, who again proved he has the ability to thrive in this Chelsea side but also the football brain to adapt and carry out Tuchel’s demands mid-match.

After the international break, there are seven games in 21 days for the Blues. So Loftus-Cheek will have further opportunities to cement his spot in this Chelsea side and finally get back on the track he was on in 2019.

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