Think back to May 2019 and that Europa League Semi-Final against Eintracht Frankfurt and Ruben Loftus-Cheek putting us ahead at the Bridge, remember it? A penalty shootout later, Chelsea were into the Final and for RLC, he was set to play in his first major cup final having missed Chelsea’s 2018 FA Cup Final win over Manchester United as he was on loan at Crystal Palace.
However, as we all know in the charity match after the final league game of the season, RLC was ruled out of not just the Europa League final, but set to miss the whole of 2019-20 season with a serious achilles injury. For RLC, this was a desperate blow as he had played in 24 league matches in 18-19 and became an important squad player under Maurizio Sarri.
With COVID-19 having had an effect on the previous season, this meant with games being played in June and July, RLC was able to come back and get some game time under Frank Lampard. He looked a bit rusty at times but having come back from such a serious injury, that was to be expected.
So, now the 24 year-old arrives into season 2020-21 raring to go. Some will say this is a critical season for RLC. Heading into the peak of his career, now is the time he needs to push himself into being a mainstay of the team. He made 40 appearances in all competitions in season 18-19 and eleven of those appearances came in our Europa League run in. If anyone deserved to play in the final, it was him. Similar to his manager Frank Lampard in his style of play, the box to box running was huge for Chelsea in that season.
There is no doubt with a huge physical presence, height and strength in abundance he can provide the grit in the Chelsea midfield that perhaps at times was lacking last season. There were a few games in the back end of last season where the Chelsea midfield looked a bit lightweight, such as at Sheffield United and arguably in the FA Cup Final. The game at Crystal Palace for many was a pivotal moment in the quest for Chelsea’s challenge to finish in the top four. In the last quarter of the game, Frank brought on RLC and Jorginho to take the game by the scruff, which they did against heavy Palace pressure and held onto win 3-2.
We know Frank is clearly strengthening his squad, but if RLC can go back to the form of 18-19 where he scored ten goals in all competitions from midfield, then this will feel like having a new signing. Knowing Frank as we do, he loves to give home-grown players a chance – this surely is now built for RLC to move to the next level. The competition will be huge, but the return of a fully fit RLC will be a huge bonus for Chelsea.