Having too many good players is a good problem for a manager to have. But it’s still a problem.
That’s what Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri faces as he looks for ways to fit Ruben Loftus-Cheek into his Chelsea lineup after the 22-year-old scored a hat-trick against BATE Borisov in Europa League play on Thursday.
According to Sarri, Loftus-Cheek is simply stuck behind three other midfielders who are similar to him, making it difficult on the Italian to figure out a way to fit him into the rotation.
“We have a tactical problem with the midfielders,” Sarri explained to BT Sport after the win over BATE. “We have four [other] midfielders and three of them have the same characteristics. They are offensive midfielders, only one has other characteristics – [N’Golo] Kante is a defensive midfielder. So it is very difficult to put in the starting XI two midfielders with the same characteristics.”
The players Sarri is referring to are Mateo Kovacic, Ross Barkley, and Jorginho. All three of them have appeared in at least eight Premier League matches this season with at least 300 league minutes to their name, while Loftus-Cheek has just two appearances off the bench totaling 33 minutes. There is also competition from Cesc Fabregas, who has not made a Premier League appearance yet this season.
Despite the lack of playing time or the gloomy outlook for Loftus-Cheek this season, Sarri praised the England international after the Europa League match, saying that the youngster has taken it upon himself to learn his boss’s preferred style of play. “At the beginning of the season he was a very good player,” Sarri said, “and now he is a good player that is more suited to my style of football.”
Loftus-Cheek said that he’s not focused on what lies ahead, and is taking a moment to enjoy his performance on Thursday. “It feels really good,” he said. “I walked into the dressing room and the players gave me a round of applause and a cheer.”