Ruben Loftus-Cheek was in eye-catching form during Chelsea’s convincing 3-0 win against Brighton at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
Put into the starting XI after his injury time winner against Cardiff, the 23-year-old picked up a goal and an assist in the second half and worked in tandem with Eden Hazard to cause constant problems for Brighton's defence.
His 63rd minute strike was the highlight of the match as he casually stroked the ball into the top right corner after exchanging passes with Hazard and Jorginho on the edge of the box.
Loftus-Cheek has spent much of the season competing with Ross Barkley and Mateo Kovacic for the third midfield role in Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri’s 4-3-3 system but has frequently fallen behind them in the pecking order.
However, after the match a stat emerged which hinted that the England international should arguably be Sarri’s first choice – he now has more goals in the Premier League this season than Barkley and Kovacic combined.
Loftus-Cheek vs Barkley vs Kovačić:— TalkChelsea (@TalkChelseaHub) April 3, 2019
Ruben Loftus-Cheek 🏴
2 Premier League Starts
5 Goals ⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️
1 Assist 🎯
Ross Barkley 🏴
12 Premier League Starts
3 Goals ⚽️⚽️⚽️
4 Assists 🎯🎯🎯🎯
Mateo Kovačić 🇭🇷
19 Premier League Starts
2 Assists 🎯🎯#CHEBHA #CFC #RLC
This is particularly impressive considering injury problems with his back have reduced him to just two league starts so far this campaign, considerably less than the 31 Barkley and Kovacic have managed between them.
Barkley and Kovacic have become something of a running joke this season due to how often one has been substituted for the other. However, for Maurizio Sarri, the key to finding a goalscoring midfielder might have been sat on the bench all along.