Frank Lampard has vowed to give Ruben Loftus-Cheek time to reach top form after an injury-ravaged 16 months.
England midfielder Loftus-Cheek suffered a nasty torn Achilles in May 2019, missing Chelsea’s Europa League final victory over Arsenal in Baku.
The 25-year-old battled back to make nine appearances at the tail-end of last term during Project Restart, but is still working towards full sharpness.
Loftus-Cheek featured in a more advanced number 10 role in Monday’s 3-1 win at Brighton but continues to receive backing from Lampard despite clearly searching for genuine rhythm.
“Ruben obviously has been out for a long time and even his return to play was pretty broken by the lockdown and the restart when he was just available to play a few games,” said Lampard.
“So we certainly have to give him a bit of time on those fronts.”
Gary Neville branded Loftus-Cheek’s Brighton performance “disappointing” in punditry for Sky Sports, suggesting the talented midfielder could struggle as Chelsea continue their big-money overhaul under Lampard.
The Blues have invested more than £200million in a summer rebuild, but Stamford Bridge boss Lampard is determined to see Loftus-Cheek hit back to his best.
Hakim Ziyech missed the comfortable Amex Stadium win with a knee issue and Christian Pulisic is not yet over a hamstring complaint.
Both creative talents will be doubtful to face Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, with Lampard happy to hand Loftus-Cheek more opportunities moving forward.
“It’s a position that Ruben can play for us, we’ve got injuries with Ziyech out and Pulisic out as well,” said Lampard, of deploying Loftus-Cheek in a more advanced role.
“They are players that will come back and give me lots of options, so it was interesting for me to see Ruben in that number 10 position today, he can certainly give us lots in those areas.”
Jorginho captained Chelsea with Cesar Azpilicueta not fit enough to start after hamstring trouble, and the Italy midfielder put the Blues ahead from the penalty spot.
New boy Timo Werner won the spot-kick with his searing pace, with the Germany striker impressing with astute running and savvy link play.
Leandro Trossard equalised with a long-range effort that Kepa Arrizabalaga should have saved, but Reece James’ thunderbolt put the Blues back in front almost immediately.
Kurt Zouma turned home James’ corner via a hefty deflection to kill the contest, with the west Londoners happy to kick-start the new campaign.
Get the best features, fun and footballing frolics straight to your inbox every week.
Thank you for signing up to Four Four Two. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.