With the 2018 FIFA World Cup less than a month away, the 23-man England squad was announced on Wednesday. There were places for two Chelsea players as Gary Cahill and Ruben Loftus-Cheek were both selected for the tournament in Russia. The former has been to a World Cup before in Brazil four years ago but it will be a completely new experience for his younger teammate.
After spending a very successful season on loan at Crystal Palace, Loftus-Cheek certainly justifies receiving that all-important phone call from Gareth Southgate. Whilst, for most people, he might not be one of the starters on the list, he could be a serious dark horse for the Three Lions.
One of the main criticisms of the England squad announcement is the lack of ‘something different’ in the midfield as the selected men, Jordan Henderson and Eric Dier, in particular, are remarkably similar in the way they play. For Liverpool and Tottenham respectively, they operate in front of the defence as a screen protecting their sides’ back fours.
This is music to the ears of RLC as his position is further up the field in a box-to-box role. It isn’t quite the attacking midfield area that Dele Alli will undoubtedly be occupying in Russia which is why the Chelsea prospect stands out against his international team-mates. It looks as though it could take some injuries to the so-called ‘more experienced’ players for the Palace loanee to find a place in the side but previous caps under Southgate might suggest otherwise.
He was handed his senior international debut by the former Middlesbrough captain late last year against arguably the strongest side in world football. For his impressive performance in the goalless draw with Germany at Wembley, Loftus-Cheek was given the man of the match award which must have considerably strengthened his claim for a place on the plane.
It was an all-action showing from the 22-year-old, to say the least as he covered every blade of grass while keeping the brilliant German midfield very quiet. In terms of Three Lions debuts, they don’t come much bigger than that and that shows the manager that he won’t shy away from the biggest stage.
The unpredictability of the London lad will be his key asset as none of the nations that England will face in Eastern Europe will know what to expect should he secure a place in the starting XI. With the likes of Spain, France and Brazil keeping close tabs on the main men like Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy, Loftus-Cheek might go under the radar, making him not only a realistic option for the side but also an opponent that most midfielders won’t want to face.
Even if he doesn’t see much action at the World Cup, it will still be a vital experience for a player who came through each stage of the Chelsea youth set-up with his best years certainly ahead of him.