With Andreas Christensen, Antonio Rudiger, and Cesar Azpilicueta out of contract in the summer, Chelsea may need to find a new center-back.
Thomas Tuchel may have dropped a hint that Chelsea won’t need to recruit in defensive positions in the summer transfer window. Against Luton Town in the FA Cup in midweek, the German manager decided to use Ruben Loftus-Cheek in an unfamiliar center-back role, where he was named Man of the Match.
Loftus-Cheek slotted in as a central defender, in a back five system that Tuchel often operates. A lot of fans may be picture Loftus-Cheek as an attacking, powerful midfielder, but he does have the capabilities to play in a defensive role.
First of all. his physique doesn’t look like that of a silky, attacking player. Standing at six foot three inches and built like a bodybuilder, Loftus-Cheek is a powerful, threatening player.
Loftus-Cheek is dribbled past on average 0.63 times per 90 minutes. Defenders Azpilicueta, Reece James, Ben Chilwell, Malang Sarr, and Marcos Alonso are all dribbled past more often. In the defensive third, only three players average more tackles per 90. Due to his size, he also has the highest aerial win percentage in the whole Chelsea team.
Tuchel likes to play a possession-based style, and Loftus-Cheek’s 88.3% pass completion would help benefit this style. It’s also important to remember he often plays higher up the pitch, attempting high-risk through balls or creating chances.
The benefit of being used in Tuchel’s system, is he is able to drive into midfield positions, as they will natrually have cover behind him. We saw against Luton, he picked up the ball in defence and played an inch-perfect ball to Werner who scored.
Now, this is by no means a suggestion that Loftus-Cheek can be permanently converted into a defender, but it offers Tuchel a little more versatility amongst his squad.
(Statistics taken from FBRef)