This weekend seen a Premier League victory for Chelsea for only the third time this season. In a 2-0 win at home to Aston Villa, the Blues climbed the table to 11th and heaped further pressure on Tim Sherwood while helping their own manager out of a hole.
The current PFA Player of the Year, Eden Hazard, was a notable absentee from the starting line-up with Jose Mourinho only deploying the Belgian with seven minutes to go. At that time, the game was already a foregone conclusion.
Willian and Pedro stepped in to provide the width while Cesc Fabregas was allowed to take on a more offensive role. In the Spaniard’s place in Chelsea’s defensive midfield position was youth team product Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
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For the first time all season, Fabregas could be seen orchestrating the game, spraying passes and enjoying his football. It appeared that Mourinho’s addition of Loftus-Cheek had finally given Fabregas the confidence and freedom to once again win games for the Blues.
Moreover, the team selection proved extremely popular with Chelsea supporters. Not only had Nemanja Matic been in stagnant form this season, but Loftus-Cheek is one of the first Chelsea academy graduates to grace the first team since John Terry. The Lewisham-born midfielder proved a refreshing choice.
Despite being substituted at half time, Loftus-Cheek impressed and kept Chelsea’s midfield outfit in immaculate shape. Furthermore, Mourinho’s decision to subsequently leave out Hazard may prove a catalyst for the Belgian to finally dig deep this season.
Next up for Mourinho’s men in the league is a difficult trip to the Boleyn Ground on Saturday and to take on this London derby, Loftus-Cheek’s London heritage may give the champions that raw passion required.
In a campaign for Chelsea that has been crying out for the slightest hint of invention and creativity, what better way to inject this to the side than via a youthful, passionate academy player such as Loftus-Cheek?