Hours before the transfer deadline, Fulham announced that Chelsea fan favourite Ruben Loftus-Cheek would be joining Fulham on a season long loan. Ruben’s career is one which has been riddled with injuries and setbacks, as well as being utilised in a way many argued stunted his development. An impressive season on loan at Crystal Palace and a breakthrough year under Marrizio Sarri changed Ruben’s fortunes, arguably becoming Chelsea’s best player on form in the second half of the 18/19 season. However in keeping with the theme of his career, Ruben sadly suffered an Achilles during a mid season friendly which saw him side lined for 13 months.
Ruben’s loan at Fulham announced – Credit: TEAMtalk
Fast forward a year and a half and Ruben returned to full fitness but struggled to get the minutes needed to regain his pre injury form. Ruben’s first game back came at the start of the Premier League restart in a game against Aston Vila. He continued to come off the bench for the remainder of the 19/20 season, showing a few good moments but ultimately failing to impress. Ruben went on to earn a start in Chelsea’s first game of the 20/21 season against Brighton but had a very poor game, being substituted in the 61st minute for Ross Barkely. Since then Ruben hasn’t even made the bench for Chelsea, a worrying sign for Chelsea fans who hold him in such high regard. With his less than impressive form and failure to gain any recent minutes in mind, going on loan seems the best option for the Chelsea midfielder.
Ruben at the back end of last season after returning from injury – Credit: BT
So is Fulham a good loan for Ruben? Ideally no, but it does have its positives. Fulham will likely be in a relegation fight this season and are the favourites of many fans and pundits to go down. Hardly the ideal environment for a player to attempt to regain their form. In saying this, Fulham’s lack of quality can work in Ruben’s favour as he will be able to accumulate lots of minutes, being the most high profile and when on form, the best player at the club. Fulham is also only 10 minutes down the road from Chelsea and Ruben is friends Fulham right back Ola Aina from their time together in the Chelsea youth setup. Knowing Aina, and not having to move house or acclimatise to new surroundings will likely allow Ruben to settle in to life at Fulham more easily than he would on loan elsewhere.
Ruben’s Loan at Fulham announced 2 – Credit: Daily Mail
Under manager Scott Parker, Fulham alternate between a 4-2-3-1 and a 3-4-3 formation based on their opponents. In both formations Harrison Reed plays the holding role while Andre Aguissa and or Tom Cairney play box to box. In Fulham’s current setup RLC would ideally be used as the box to box midfielder where he can best utilise his ability to carry the ball from deep and his physicality and athleticism to dominate the middle of the park. Parker could also opt to use two number 8s with Ruben and Anguissa or Cairney in front of Reed, although this may be unlikely given Fulham already lack in defensive solidity. Due to the lack of comparative attacking quality present in Fulham’s ranks and Rubens ability to score goals, Scott Parker could potentially deploy him as a number 10 or a winger (similar to his loan at Crystal Palace).
A concern for Ruben is that he not only needs minutes but the right quality of minutes to get back up to speed. If used incorrectly in a role which doesn’t suit him as he has been under pervious Chelsea managers, it may stifle his ability to get back to his pre injury form.
The degree of success of Ruben’s loan and whether he can stay fit will dictate Ruben’s future at Chelsea. The Englishman undoubtedly has the quality to reach the top given the right circumstances, but those circumstances seem to be something that have often alluded Ruben throughout his turbulent career. Whether Lampard continues to play a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3, both can suit Ruben’s game. However Chelsea are already crowded in these positions with Havertz, Mount, Gilmour, Kante and Kovatic currently in the squad as well as the likes of Gallagher and Anjorin looking to break into Chelsea’s side. As painful as it is to type, it will take nothing short of recapturing and maintaining his brilliant pre injury form and remaining injury free in order for Ruben to fulfil his potential at Chelsea, something he is yet to do in his entire career. The potential for Ruben to revive his Chelsea career is still there, but now at the age of 24, it does feel like Ruben may be one injury away from joining the sad list of players who’s potentially brilliant careers were robbed of them through injury. Chelsea fans can only hope that Ruben’s loan is a success and his injury days are behind him.