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Ruben Loftus-Cheek

2018/19 will undoubtedly go down in Chelsea lore as one of the biggest missed opportunities in living memory. Yet, with the introduction of Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek into the Chelsea ranks this term, there is every implication that Sarri can go on to create his own blend of British craftsmanship and foreign flair to great effect.

However, a long-term back injury has led many to believe that Loftus Cheek’s big chance of being a regular starter for Chelsea has been extinguished. So too is there a fear that the rigours of two-fronted battles, in which the Blues rightly desire to fight every season, will simply be too much for him.

Loftus-Cheek’s recurring back injury is a problem that has dogged the English youngster’s professional life for longer than many realise. Worst of all, it is the type that has not only seen the chances of other promising players with a top club disappear but also end a career entirely.

The origins of his back issues are attributed in some parts to the rate at which he grew physically while playing youth football. His most significant absence to date is the long spell he missed in the winter of 2017/18, sustaining an injury on 28 December 2017, in a close-fought defeat to Arsenal at Selhurst Park while on loan at Crystal Palace.

Though it was an ankle injury which caused the problem on that occasion, it came at a time where he was staking a real claim for regular inclusion into the England starting XI. While 2018/19 has been distinctly kinder to Loftus Cheek, he began 2019 by leaving the field in tears of agony, during Chelsea’s routine win over Nottingham Forest in the third round of the FA Cup. While he has since recovered to play a part in both league and European games, his personal saga has taken the bleakest turn yet in recent days.

Even though Maurizio Sarri saw fit to give Loftus-Cheek some minutes in the 1-0 victory at Slavia, the Italian coach has publicly revealed that he does not feel comfortable starting Loftus-Cheek. While Sarri’s words are not reassuring in the slightest, he knows as well as anyone that Loftus-Cheek can be the difference between taking home three points or leaving a game empty handed.

That has certainly been the case of late, with Loftus-Cheek netting in two successive league games earlier in the spring. Firstly, he netted a 91st minute winner at Cardiff to spare his team’s blushes, and then respectively assisted and scored the second and third goals against Brighton just four days later. He also scored in successive games back in October and December, and on that evidence, he is a player who thrives on good form as much as innate skill.

Loftus-Cheek’s evident ability to play through the pain barrier is a great asset. That noted, the Chelsea starting XI is undoubtedly one of the most competitive in Europe. Indeed, those that  current spread betting odds, for fourth place in the Premier League and an outright Europa League win, can see that Chelsea are favoured. Thus, Sarri is unlikely to change his default starting XI very readily.

For that reason, any sustained period of absence makes it difficult for most to re-establish into the Chelsea starting XI, unless the player in question is an undisputed ‘A-list’ asset like Eden Hazard or Willian.

Loftus-Cheek, for all his natural talent, arguably does not yet fall into this hallowed category. However, the case for his long-term future at Chelsea remains strong, and his continued involvement – even from the bench – bodes well.

A countless number of talented young players have found the top league to be an unforgiving place when recurring injuries manifest themselves. Ultimately for Loftus-Cheek, the line – between career-ending overexertion and a respectable career – remains a fine one that he will tread with trepidation for the foreseeable future.

 

 

 

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Chelsea summer signing Hakim Ziyech to miss Ajax’s Europa League clash against Getafe

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Hakim Ziyech to miss Ajax’s Europa League clash against Getafe

According to a report by Football.london, Hakim Ziyech will miss Ajax’s Europa League round of 32 second leg clash against La Liga outfit Getafe.

The playmaker, who will officially join Chelsea in the summer for a fee of £33.4m, was fine after the first leg against Getafe but things went wrong after that, as per Erik ten Haag (h/t Football.london).

As a result, the Dutch heavyweights have chosen not to put additional stress on Ziyech by making him play. However, his absence could cost them dearly since they need to overturn a 2-0 deficit.

The report adds that Ziyech only recently returned from a spell on the treatment table. The decision to provide him with rest and not risk his fitness does come as good news for us.

Signing a player like Ziyech is arguably one of the smartest transfer deals we’ve completed in recent times. And keeping him away from getting injured would be key to ensuring we are able to extract his best.

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Kudos to Ajax for choosing not to risk their star player despite the fact that this is a huge game for them.

Let’s hope they are able to win and progress further but as far as Chelsea are concerned, we need our squad in tip-top condition ahead of the new season.

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Frank Lampard could axe as many as eight Chelsea stars in summer shake-up

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Frank Lampard plans massive Chelsea summer overhaul

Frank Lampard is planning a massive summer overhaul at Chelsea, according to the Sun (h/t Daily Mail).

The 3-0 loss to Bayern Munich at home did not just highlight how far off Chelsea are from the European elite but was also a cruel indictment of the lack of quality in the Blues’ ranks.

The manager did not mince his words in the post-match press conference. Lampard has been aware of the inadequacies and is determined to stem the rot and rebuild a side that can challenge for trophies once again.

Although there are risks involved in such a massive turnover of players, the Blues boss is set to go ahead with it in order to accelerate the team’s development.

Kepa Arrizabalaga
Kepa Arrizabalaga has lived up to his price tag

The world’s most expensive goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga and midfielder Jorginho are likely to be two of the eight players who could be shown the door at the end of the season.

The 25-year-old keeper has failed to live up to expectations and has recently lost his place to Willy Caballero.

Jorginho impressed initially but has since fallen off with his lack of pace often cited as a factor.

Jorginho
Jorginho’s lack of pace has limited his influence

English midfielder Ross Barkley could also be on his way out after failing to meet Lampard’s expectations.

Both left-backs Marcos Alonso and Emerson Palmieri could be offloaded as well. Meanwhile, veterans Willian and Pedro are out of contract in the summer.

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Chelsea have already agreed to sign Hakim Ziyech in the summer. The Moroccon will add a much-needed boost to the Blues strike force.

According to the report, Lampard is likely to push for four more signings – including Leicester City’s Ben Chilwell and Atletico Madrid’s Jan Oblak.

While this does sound ambitious on paper, it remains to be seen as to how things actually end up playing out.

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Chelsea to offer Kepa + £25m for world-class La Liga star

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Kepa Arrizabalaga

Chelsea could offer Kepa Arrizabalaga plus cash for Jan Oblak

Chelsea are open to including Kepa Arrizabalaga in a player plus cash deal to try to sign Atletico Madrid keeper Jan Oblak, according to Spanish talk show El Chiringuito de Jugones (h/t Metro).

The Blues made Kepa the most expensive goalkeeper in the world when they signed him for £71.6million in 2018 to replace the outgoing Thibaut Courtois.

The Spanish international has failed to live up to expectations and was recently dropped by Frank Lampard in favour of Willy Caballero.

The Blues boss feels Kepa isn’t at the level expected of a team chasing the top four and is keen on bringing in a replacement. The report goes on to say that Chelsea has identified Oblak as the top target.

Jan Oblak is widely considered to be one of the best goalkeepers in the world today

Chelsea have proposed a swap deal that would see Kepa move to Atletico, in addition to a £25million transfer fee. The swap should help preserve the player’s worth as the Chelsea board were fearful that Lampard’s treatment of the player would diminish his value.

Atletico, however, are not keen on selling their prized keeper and will ask for a significantly higher sum of cash to even consider selling him.

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The 27-year-old joined the Spanish giants from Benfica in 2014. He has since gone on to make 242 appearances for Atletico and has kept an impressive 133 clean sheets. (h/t Transfermarkt)

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Chelsea new boy opens up about choosing Stamford Bridge as his next destination

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Hakim Ziyech opens up on decision behind joining Chelsea

According to a report by Chelsea’s official website, Hakim Ziyech has expressed his delight and reasoning behind choosing to join Chelsea. The Blues have agreed on terms with the Ajax man and he will officially join us in the upcoming summer window.

Ziyech has been one of Ajax’s best players by a mile over the last few seasons. In the ongoing term, he has contributed with 6 goals and 12 assists already.

Speaking to Ajax TV (h/t Chelseafc.com), Ziyech said:

“It [Chelsea] is a big club in a big competition. I like the style of play, they play really attacking football, and that is something that fits me and that is one of the biggest reasons I chose, therefore.”

When asked about Frank Lampard’s role in orchestrating the transfer, Ziyech admitted that he played a key part.

“We had a lot of contact in the last couple of weeks and he gave me a good feeling and that was also big to do with the decision,” he explained.

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Signing Ziyech is easily one of the best transfers we’ve pulled off in recent times and one cannot wait to watch him in action. It will be interesting to see how he adapts to life in England after an impressive spell with Ajax.

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