Chelsea played New England Revolution in a charity game towards the end of last season, just before their Europa League final against Arsenal in Baku.
Though the game was for a good cause, it was deemed unnecessary that the match be played before the Europa final. It turned out to be a disaster for Sarri and co, with midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek tearing his Achilles tendon, taking him out of the final in Baku and making him unable to play a single minute of football this season.
Ruben made over 40 appearances for Chelsea under Sarri last season, starting in the left of midfield in a classic 4-3-3 formation.
He scored 10 goals for Chelsea, 6 in the league and 4 in the Europa League. His attacking presence and link-up with Eden Hazard down the left helped Chelsea cruise through the Europa League qualifiers and knockouts.
Loftus-Cheek started off in Chelsea’s academy at the age of eight. He was a regular in their U-18 and U-21 sides, winning the FA Youth Cup and the Under-21 Premier League with his academy teammates. He made his senior debut for the club in 2014 under Jose Mourinho but made only three league appearances that season.
He joined Crystal Place on a one year loan in 2017, and played 25 games for the club, scoring couple of goals alongside five further layoffs. His impressive performances for the Eagles, led him to a senior call-up to the England squad under Gareth Southgate.
Chelsea legend Gianfranco Zola, who was part of Sarri’s backroom last year as an assistant manager, was asked recently in an interview with Sky Sports about players to watch in England. He talked about Liverpool’s front three, James Maddison and then about Loftus-Cheek,“I also like very much last year Ruben Loftus-Cheek. He’s a player that, if he can recover his physical potential, he can be an amazing player. Players like [Eden] Hazard were special last year, he was unbelievable.”
Ruben is skilled in running at defenders and dribbling round them, with his height and pace helping him shrug off opponents easily.
He would have thrived under the new manager, and Frank Lampard had to look for other options in midfield given the transfer ban Chelsea were serving, which prohibited them from signing players in the summer.
Loftus-Cheek was close to returning to full fitness before the current break in football and was playing with Chelsea’s under-23s before. The Blues were wise not to rush the midfielder back into the team, and Frank Lampard now can use this break to get him back to full fitness.
Chelsea this season have lined up with Kovacic, Kante and Jorginho in the center of the park. When Ruben does come back into the squad, he will have to prove his worth, in a midfield with youngsters Billy Gilmour and Mason Mount as well who have impressed this season and Lampard is sure to have a selection headache next season.
But there is no doubt that Loftus-Cheek will be part of Lampard’s future plans, who will depend on his physical and attacking talents to bolster the midfield. The tendon rupture was nothing but a minor setback for the England international who is sure to go to the very top.