Last season, if not up front, central midfield was where Chelsea were at their weakest.
The club had sold Nemanja Matic to Premier League rivals Manchester United during the summer in a move that was heavily scrutinised, and his replacement Tiemoue Bakayoko was quite simply atrocious.
With Cesc Fabregas often struggling in the middle of the park, too, Chelsea were left in quite the predicament going into the new season.
Thanks to the arrivals of Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic, though, and Ross Barkley returning to full fitness, things are now quite different at Stamford Bridge under new boss Maurizio Sarri.
There is no doubt Chelsea supporters are more satisfied with their midfield options compared to last season, but not everyone associated with the club will be jubilant about two new midfielders being brought in.
And none more so than Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
After a successful loan spell at Crystal Palace last term and having impressed at the World Cup with the England national team, Loftus-Cheek would have hoped he had done enough to convince Chelsea and Sarri that he is worthy of a starting position at the club.
However, that has not been the case and the arrival of Kovacic, in particular, has all but condemned £16.2m-rated (via Transfermarkt) Loftus-Cheek to a bench role.
The 22-year-old, though, is remaining optimistic over his chances of eventually breaking into Sarri’s starting XI and has indicated he is willing to be patient.
In an interview with Sky Sports, Loftus-Cheek said: “I’d like to have more appearances by now, but it’s just the way my journey has gone, and I just have to be patient with it.
“I can see it as a positive; I’m playing for England, playing well when I play, and that’s without too many appearances so it’s still raw in that sense.”
Loftus-Cheek has done well to spin a positive angle from his current situation, and Chelsea supporters will be delighted to see one of their youth products fighting so hard to make it at the club.
That being said, it is hard to see how the central midfielder can find a way into the team ahead of Jorginho, Kovacic or N’Golo Kante, and he could also soon face the possibility of losing his spot in the England set up with Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate issuing a warning to the squad’s underused players.
Speaking after England’s 1-0 win over Switzerland at the King Power on Tuesday night, Southgate said (via the Independent): “They understand that it is difficult to pick players if we are seven, eight weeks into the season and they are not playing.
“Three weeks into the season is one thing, seven weeks into the season and they have not played it is even more complicated.”
Southgate has made it clear; players such as Loftus-Cheek need to start playing regularly if they are to remain in the England squad, and that is something that does not look likely to happen at Stamford Bridge for the Chelsea youth product.
As Loftus-Cheek has shown for the Three Lions, though, he has the ability to play at the highest level. And, if he cannot do that at Chelsea, then a move elsewhere is needed — and this time for good.
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