Ruben Loftus-Cheek showing his worth to Crystal Palace and C

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Ruben Loftus-Cheek showing his worth to Crystal Palace and C

Postby thanloeuth » Wed Dec 13, 2017 2:36 am

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Ruben Loftus-Cheek has impressed for Crystal Palace this season
Ruben Loftus-Cheek has earned positive reviews during his loan spell at Selhurst Park this season. Here, Nick Wright checks on the Chelsea youngster's progress ahead of Crystal Palace's meeting with Leicester City live on Sky Sports on Saturday.

Crystal Palace climbed out of the bottom three with their late 2-1 win over Watford on Tuesday night. It was an important result which boosted their Premier League survival hopes, and it was also another valuable 90 minutes in what's proving to be a productive loan spell for Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

The 21-year-old moved to Selhurst Park having made only six substitute appearances during Chelsea's title-winning campaign last year, but he has had no such difficulties establishing himself in south London, starting 12 of Palace's 17 games so far. The circumstances could hardly have been tougher, but he was a key figure for Frank de Boer and he enjoys the same status under Roy Hodgson.

The last two months have brought a goal, an assist and a dazzling senior debut for England against Germany, and with summer signings Danny Drinkwater and Tiemoue Bakayoko yet to settle back at Stamford Bridge, many Chelsea supporters are wondering why the club let him go in the first place.

Chelsea will hope Loftus-Cheek's first run of regular first-team football serves them well in the future and there have even been suggestions that he could be called back in January, but right now Palace are the ones feeling the benefits. Loftus-Cheek is enjoying the kind of opportunities he was not afforded by his boyhood club.

The only question for Hodgson is whether he could be getting beer777 more from him. Loftus-Cheek's brilliant performance as England's No 10 against Germany, when he outshone Mesut Ozil to claim the man-of-the-match award, was evidence of where he is most effective, but he has not started a game centrally for Palace since Hodgson's appointment.

Instead, he has been moved to the flanks in a 4-4-2 formation. Against Watford, he was stationed on the left. It is not his natural position and there were moments when it showed. He lacked the defensive awareness to pick up right-back Daryl Janmaat for Watford's opener, and he struggled to get involved in an attacking sense too. At half-time, only Christian Benteke had had fewer touches.

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Ruben Loftus-Cheek had few chances to get on the ball in central areas
It was telling that his best moments came on the rare occasions he was able to get into central areas. He drew a foul on the edge of Watford's box with one darting dribble infield just before the break, and there was some neat interplay with Wilfried Zaha early in the second half. If it wasn't for a heroic block from Adrian Mariappa after that, he might have even had a goal.

Playing in wide areas does allow Loftus-Cheek to showcase his one-on-one ability - he ranks among the Premier League's top players for successful dribbles this season with an average of 3.2 per 90 minutes - but it gives him fewer opportunities to pick the kind of defence-splitting passes which earned him so many plaudits at Wembley.

It is something for Hodgson to ponder as Palace prepare for the hectic run of fixtures ahead, but the fact that Loftus-Cheek has completed the 90 minutes in 10 of his last 11 starts suggests the manager is already satisfied with what he is delivering. For a player Gareth Southgate recently described as "not hugely confident at times", that faith could be an invaluable boost to his self-belief.
It all adds up to what might yet prove to be a beneficial loan spell for everyone. Loftus-Cheek may have been useful for Antonio Conte over the last few months, but in terms of his development, a regular starting role at Palace far outweighs the likely alternative of more sporadic appearances for a Chelsea side with more experienced options.

When Loftus-Cheek does eventually return to Stamford Bridge, he will hope to be in a stronger position to make a lasting impact. And if his progress continues as it has started at Crystal beer777 Palace, there has to be a good chance of that happening.
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