The return of Ruben Loftus-Cheek has been a huge addition to Thomas Tuchel as well as a welcome for us blues supporters after falling in love with the dynamic midfielder way back when Maurizio Sarri pushed him on.
However, after a similar degree of injury and an even more similar amount of time out injured, I wanted to sympathise with our huge number 12 as the journey he’s been on since his ruptured Achilles can’t have been an easy one.
All the way back in May 2019 Chelsea travelled to the USA to play two needless friendlies before taking on Arsenal in the Europa League Final.
It was safe to say up until that point in the season aside from Eden Hazard, RLC and Callum Hudson-Odoi had been our in form players. Weeks prior to this CHO also suffered the same Achilles injury against Burnley which also in turn de-railed his stratospheric rise.
Injuries in football and especially this type of injury have become more and more consistent due to the nature of the game. In the last 15 years the game has got faster and more intense. Which in turn takes its toll on the players and the possibility of longer and more serious injuries. Unlike most clubs in the Premiership, Chelsea have been lucky enough not to face the same volume of injuries compared to the likes of Tottenham and Arsenal.
Ruben essentially missed all of Frank Lampard’s first season in charge. He made a few substitute appearances but for the most part was a ghost of his former self. The following season Chelsea played Brighton in which RLC started and in no uncertain terms essentially caused Chelsea to play with 10 men.
I remember watching and seeing a player that physically looked leaner and stronger than before but mentally was clearly not confident whatsoever. After suffering a similar injury in 2018 (I ruptured my ACL not my Achilles) I can wholeheartedly relate to how he was feeling while on the pitch.
When you return from a serious injury the so called fire in your belly and the eagerness to get back on the pitch is so strong and so powerful that I’m sure it enables you to give that extra ten percent. The main issue is your mindset though. Every sprint, every turn and even to some extent every shot comes with a mental warning of ‘be careful’. Now I have never played at the level RLC or CHO have played at but I do know what it’s like to be on a football pitch with the adrenaline pumping. By having those thoughts when returning from injury is somewhat crippling to a player. Especially a player like RLC who is so dynamic and involved.
The boys on the Fancast have mentioned very recently that this may be RLC’s last chance in a Chelsea shirt and this could be why his performances against Man City, Juventus and Southampton were like the Ruben of old.
Now I don’t disagree completely with their thought process as Ruben is on thin ice and is up against a crazy pedigree of competition. What I think is more than likely the case is that Ruben has been seeing a psychiatrist. His body is fine and will support him but from experience it takes a very strong person to ignore that nagging thought in your head of ‘be careful’.
The brain is a powerful thing and I do believe it can stall or even stop progress of players. In the same way a striker needs confidence to put the ball in the back of net, players returning from injury need that confidence to step back onto the pitch. Similar aspects of the modern game have been touched on by the hit Apple TV+ show Ted Lasso (I highly recommend to any football fan).
The recent performances as discussed on the Fancast have shown RLC has still got it. He dominated the midfield against Southampton and gave us a glimmer of hope against City when he came on for the final 15 minutes. I think we’ll see a lot more of him this season and I hope we do as now at the age of 25, we should be seeing the best from one of our own.