Ruben Loftus-Cheek is one of the very few academy prospects to have broken through to the senior team for Chelsea in recent times.
Coming into prominence during the 2015/2016 campaign, the 20-year-old has shown a great level of maturity for his tender age.
Owing to promising displays in the club's first two friendlies in Austria, newly appointed manager Antonio Conte has been impressed with the starlet, having handed the young midfielder a fair amount of playing time during both the games.
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However, the Italian's plans for deploying Loftus-Cheek in the team is far from what was initially expected by most.
Playing in an Advanced Role
In the first pre-season game against Rapid Vienna, Conte started the talented midfielder in attack, as a supporting striker for Diego Costa, whereas the game against RZ Pellets saw Loftus-Cheek placed alongside new signing Michy Batshuayi, where the Englishman even managed to score a well taken header from a set-piece.
Speaking on Chelsea's official website, the 46-year-old manager expressed his desire to install the young talent upfront in attack if needed: "Every manager has their own idea about a system of play. In this system, with two midfielders, Ruben can play close to the other forward but become a forward when we have the ball."
The former Siena manager added: "He has the right characteristics to play in this position. Ruben is young with great potential. I like him a lot in the position of striker. He can improve a lot because he has great potential, good technique, good personality and he is good one versus one."
Conte could be right about Loftus-Cheek's ability to operate as a forward, as the player certainly has the technique, ball control, composure, finishing ability, and maturity to learn and thrive in that role.
Very few players at this age play with such ease and comfort as the Chelsea prospect, making him one of the most promising players, not only at Stamford Bridge, but in the entire Premier League.
Desire to Feature in the First Team
His chances in the first team have been limited during the past two seasons, but the player has proved that he is up for the challenge whenever called upon.
Loftus-Cheek told Goal: “I am playing in a striker role at the moment, which is different.
“It was the first time I played there, so there is a lot to get used to about the role and how the boss wants us to play. It is exciting.”
Citing club legend Frank Lampard as his inspiration, the 20-year-old wishes to one day emulate Chelsea's all time top scorer. At such a young age, the midfielder certainly has enough time to achieve that feat.
Playing in an advanced role, he will have the perfect opportunity to reach that goal.
Loftus-Cheek has also expressed his desire to get as much playing time as possible under his belt, even if it means playing in an unfamiliar role.
“I think I can do a job in midfield as well, I told the boss I will play where he wants me to play. It is not a problem if he wants me to play as a striker, I will play there. At the moment I just want to be playing games.” he emphasised.
There is certainly no lack of hunger in the young English player, which is always an attribute managers are looking for.
With the crux of the first team slowly making their way back to training, after participating in the European Championship in France, Loftus-Cheek's opportunities may become more limited, as the club consists of a plethora of quality central midfielders in Cesc Fabregas, Nemanja Matic, John Obi Mikel, Oscar, and the newly signed N'Golo Kante from Leicester City.
With Costa and Batshuayi almost certain to be Conte's preferred striking options, Loftus-Cheek might have to be patient for opportunities upfront as well.
However, if the player continues to impress in an attacking role, there might yet be hope for the talented Englishman to feature more regularly in the team next season.
Perhaps, the club need not look for further additions to their striking options if Loftus-Cheek is able to recreate himself as a goal scoring threat.
Could Ruben Loftus-Cheek make it as a forward? Leave us YOUR thoughts in the comment section below!
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