When Antonio Conte first arrived at Cobham even most optimistic of our fans was hoping we would only early back our top four place and at best compete for the title until the end, eventually losing out to one of the Manchester teams.
As the league standings today prove, those predictions slightly underestimated The Don’s abilities to turn a struggling ship around. Not only has it brought back Chelsea’s fear-factor, the Conte revolution has so far been surprisingly inclusive of our young players.
Nathaniel Chalobah, Ola Aina and Ruben Loftus-Cheek have all been getting much more game time than most of us expected they would be given by a Chelsea manager, not to mention Nathan Ake being recalled from his loan at Bournemouth instead of the club spending an exorbitant amount of money on a new shiny defender.
In the youngsters’ defensive though, it is arguable that their minutes should not be described as “given” by Conte as much as “earned” by the players themselves, and we were lucky enough that we finally have a manger willing to reward the hard work and good performances of our inexperienced exciting young players- to some extent at least.
The latest chance our youngsters had was against lower-league side Brentford, where three youngsters played. Ake, Loftus-Cheek, Chalobah all performed as good as you can hope, especially RLC, who has showed that he is immensely benefiting from Conte’s tutelage.
Ruben’s excellence at that game has not gone unrewarded by our manager, who gave the youngster a cameo at our comfortable win against Leicester in the league last month, and our manager was not disappointed once again, which begs the question: Isn’t Ruben due a start in the league?
There are many supporting arguments for the 20 year-old starting. The fact that we are leading in the league by such a comfortable margin means that a young player would not feel as much pressure as he would otherwise.
If the title race as tighter, which is obviously not to say that we should play four or five players from the academy but surely, one youngster who has played admirably in the last couple of games can and should hold his own against a Premier League team, especially Hull, one of the worst teams in the league at the moment.
Moreover, where Loftus-Cheek would play is presumably as an inside forward, and we’ve only played three players there all season: Hazard, Willian and Pedro. It is one of the positions where our players have been least rested, especially that Conte has preferred to play all three when Costa was not available and it has shown.
Hazard has looked tired every-time he went on the pitch and we are going to need him of all players rested and ready for the last couple of months of the season. So what better time to rest our most valuable player and see if our youngster can make really be relied upon in the future, than when we are flying on top of the league and playing an out-of-form team?
Playing RLC should absolutely not be seen as us underestimating Hull, because if playing one of our most promising attacking player against a team any team is still considered us “not taking the game seriously” then we really should take a hard look about the quality of young players at our disposal.
However, I believe that Ruben has what it takes to start taking responsibility and delivering on his promise, just like many of our young players who should all get their chance when the timing is right.