How Ruben Loftus-Cheek is being wasted at Crystal Palace

Chelsea

It was great to see Ruben Loftus-Cheek last a full 90 minute game against Bournemouth on Saturday.

Before an ankle injury made him miss around three months of football, the 22-year old was impressive and even played his way into Gareth Southgate’s squad for the friendlies against Brazil and Germany.

He not only made the squad he also earned the Man of the Match award when the Three Lions drew 0-0 with the Germans.

The Chelsea loanee did not look out of his depth against a midfield containing Mesut Ozil, and Ilkay Gundogan and he thoroughly deserved his individual gong in that match.

Despite this promising performance as the midfield linchpin, he has been regularly deployed as a wide midfielder, since former England manager Roy Hodgson took over from Frank De Boer.

He was deployed on the left flank of a flat 4-4-2 against Bournemouth with Wilfired Zaha and Andros Townsend acted as emergency strikers to cover for the injured Christian Benteke.

The strike force of Townsend and Zaha makes sense, considering Hodgson was struggling for strikers, but the decision to move Loftus-Cheek out to left midfield seems odd.

Standing at approximately 1.9 metres and having an extremely powerful frame, he does not have the build of a traditional winger.

Against Germany in November he was dominant in the middle of the park, winning the ball back and using it efficiently; therefore the fact that he has been deployed out wide most of the season, despite this performance is bewildering.

With the injury of Benteke this weekend, it would not have been an insane idea to play Loftus-Cheek through the middle as a striker.

With his imposing frame and strength, he would have been a great option to play the ball into, whether that is for him to win the ball aerially or to hold up.

Despite being 22-years young and fairly inexperienced due to the lack of chances he had at Chelsea, he is composed, able to pick out passes from other players and he can drive the ball forward and run at defences.

However, the 4-4-2 has evolved over the last couple of seasons, with wide midfielders coming into the middle and flooding the centre of the pitch.

When defending, the flat 4-4-2 would turn into a narrow 4-4-2 diamond; thus giving the defending side four central midfielders.

Loftus-Cheek has been effective at left midfield, especially when Palace have had to sit back and counter-attack; however, if his man of the match performance against the world champions in November suggests anything, it is that Palace could potentially be misusing him.