The phrase ‘Chosen One’ has been thrown around in football a lot. Immortalized by David Moyes when he was handpicked by Sir Alex Fergusson as his successor to the United throne, it is fair to say that the term may have lost some of its weight over time.
However, using the term for Chelsea’s prodigal son Ruben Loftus Cheek seems more fitting than Petr Cech’s helmet, given Ruben’s journey to the Chelsea first team and incredible ability.
One of the very few youth products to make it to the first team during the pre-Frank Lampard era, Ruben Loftus Cheek may feature in his first competitive game since May of 2019, when a ruptured achilles put him out of commission for over a year.
Now that he’s back and in contention to start for Chelsea, Aston Villa should be worried. Although his career didn’t have the flashiest start, his loan spell at Crystal Palace as well as the 2018/19 season have given us glimpses of what the young man from Lewisham is capable of, garnering comparisons with Paul Pogba in his prime.
While he may not be the highest rated English midfielder, the fact is that when the man gets going, it is extremely difficult to stop him. His hat-trick against BATE Borisov in the Europa league showed exactly what he is capable of – a tank in midfield who contributes a lot going forward. The 10 goals and 5 assists he pitched in with last season, wasn’t too shabby of a return for an English midfielder either.
As far as Aston Villa are concerned, if Ruben Loftus Cheek were to start, neutralizing him would be a daunting task. Bar Tyrone Mings, Villa don’t really have a defender to cope with the physical threat of Loftus Cheek.
And when you add his incredible strength and explosive pace to his great dribbling ability and eye for goal, Villa have a problem. If they were to assign a midfielder to man-mark him, it would create a gap in midfield, freeing up the likes of Christian Pulisic and Tammy Abraham to get in behind, a mistake Villa have already suffered from, in the reverse fixture at Stamford Bridge earlier this season.
As seen in the games against BATE, Wolves and Brighton last season, Ruben doesn’t shy away from a cheeky shot and can pop one from off from outside the box as well. Aston Villa have conceded 4 goals from outside the box this season and as they normally drop deep while defending, giving a player like Loftus Cheek space in and around the box can prove to be very costly indeed.
He can put in a defensive shift as well and given his physical stature and speed, is an effective tool for breaking opposition counter attacks. Last season the English midfielder had 11 interceptions, a 67% successful tackle rate and 103 duels won in 24 Premier League appearances. While defense may not be his forte, Loftus Cheek is not too bad on the back foot.
Taking into account the fact that Ruben hasn’t featured all season and combined with the fact that he will be under the mentorship of Frank Lampard, one of the best English midfielders of all time, it is safe to assume that it may not be long before Chelsea fans see another Loftus Cheek masterclass, from what essentially is like a new signing.
Whether his performance warrants a ‘Ruben, Ruben, Ruben’ chant against Aston Villa on Sunday, one thing is for sure, England manager Gareth Southgate will be paying close attention.