Chelsea vice-captain Cesar Azpilicueta has lauded Ruben Loftus-Cheek the “complete player” following back-to-back Premier League goals.
The England international snatched the winner against Cardiff on the weekend and followed that up with a delectable curling effort against Brighton on Wednesday.
Is Loftus-Cheek a “complete player”? Five key things to know…
- Following a successful loan spell with Crystal Palace last season, Loftus-Cheek was selected for the World Cup.
- The midfielder impressed for England, featuring four times and registering an assist.
- As such, many were expecting Loftus-Cheek to play a key role for the Blues this season.
- Thus far Maurizio Sarri has not been convinced, entrusting Loftus-Cheek just two PL starts.
- Despite featuring sparsely Loftus-Cheek has scored eight goals and registered three assists across all competitions.
The central midfielder has played a sporadic role under Maurizio Sarri this season, sitting mostly on the periphery of action with just two league starts.
There have been calls from the terraces for Sarri to afford more first-team opportunities to Loftus-Cheek, and those views have now been inadvertently echoed by Azpilicueta.
“I have seen a great improvement from him in the last couple of weeks,” the Spaniard told the club’s official website.
“He picked up again the injury in his back but I spoke with him and said we need him fit. He is working hard and at the moment he is more involved with the team which is what we need.
“At the moment he is showing his quality. In the box he showed great determination to get the header and score a very important goal for us.
“He’s understanding the game better, when he has to drive with the ball, and he has unbelievable strength. He can push past defenders, get in the box, score goals, and he defends.
“He is a complete player.”
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Why isn’t Loftus-cheek starting?
Much has been made about Sarri’s approach to management this season, with the Italian almost reluctant to tinker with his personnel on a week-to-week basis.
He forged a reputation for having a staunch approach in Naples, rarely changing his system or players, and that appears to have carried over to the Premier League.
Callum Hudson-Odoi is the latest talent in the limelight, but there are still question marks regarding Loftus-Cheek’s lack of minutes.
However, Azpilicueta has shed some light, suggesting his teammate has struggled with injury problems, stating: “I have known him since I came here and his big problem was injuries.
“He couldn’t stay with the team for a long time. He didn’t have a lot of game time which makes it more difficult to get in the rhythm of the team.”
And that assertion has now been reinforced by Sarri, who told reporters after his side’s comprehensive 3-0 win over Brighton, that his midfielder has been nursing a back injury for the majority of the campaign.
He told talkSPORT: “Loftus-Cheek, for the first time this season, is without the problem in his back.
“So now he is able to train every day and now he’s doing very well. The potential of Loftus-Cheek is very high.”