We need to talk about Chelsea youth prospect Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

There are many in the Chelsea academy worth noting—reported £20,000-per-week Andreas Christensen and 16-year-old Danny Desilva chief among them—but no player moved more fluidly and more assuredly in the FA Youth Cup final on Monday night than Loftus-Cheek.

The defensive midfielder has come under the microscope due to a hefty weekly wage of his own, so expectations are high and mistakes are heavily scrutinised.

Fortunately, he didn’t make a single one against Fulham at Craven Cottage.

He’s already 6ft-plus and has the body of a 23-year-old. His powerful frame belies his baby face, allowing him to bounce off others in his age group with ease and surge through packs at a canter.

His studious positioning and checking of angles and runners suggests his natural fit is at defensive midfield, and he has the quickness and range to play as a “sole anchor” in a 4-3-3—a la Morgan Schneiderlin and Nemanja Matic—or in a “2” of a 4-2-3-1.

He took it in turns with his midfield partner to bomb forward on Monday night, attempting to breach the box and keep the ball ticking in the final third.

His reluctance to shoot, and instead willingness to pass short in order to create an angle for another, though, showed remarkable restraint, patience and a clear understanding of his role in the side.

When you reach Loftus-Cheek’s height, ball work and lateral quickness becomes harder. The Chelsea man, though, has a ridiculous pair of feet that allow him to ghost across the turf.He has an ability to make space for himself when receiving the ball that, to be honest, isn’t natural.


Projecting Loftus-Cheek is remarkably tough given the physical advantage he has over almost every other player in his age group.

When he opens up his leg and decides to dribble, it’s over; you can’t stop him. You can’t go shoulder-to-shoulder with him because he’s already breached the space behind you.

The only sample size we have of him “mixing it with the big boys” is Chelsea’s exhibition friendly in New York with Manchester City, and in it he matched Yaya Toure physically. Still, it’s a friendly. How hard was Toure going, considering it was just a week after the season had ended?

There’s not an awful lot left for Loftus-Cheek to learn in the youth squads, and he needs to be loaned out appropriately—ie. to a club playing good football, perhaps in the lower half of the Premier League—to continue his education.

Continuing to blitz 17-year-olds half his size will begin to hinder him, and this is a young talent you do not want to hold back any longer.

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