Frank Lampard has defended Ruben Loftus-Cheek after Gary Neville claimed Chelsea will soon cash in on the under-performing England man.
Loftus-Cheek made only his third start this year in the win over Brighton on Monday, but he failed to make an impact in a slightly fortunate Chelsea win.
Lampard played the 24-year-old in the No.10 role ahead of Jorginho and N’Golo Kante. But he was replaced by Ross Barkley after just 61 minutes having failed to make an impact with Lampard looking for better shape from his side.
The midfielder has had a torrid spell at Stamford Bridge. He was sidelined for 13 months after suffering an Achilles injury in May 2019 and was ready to return only for the Covid-19 pandemic to halt his return to action.
Loftus-Cheek was criticised by Sky Sports pundits Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher after the game, with Neville describing the midfielder’s performance as “really disappointing”.
“I thought, Loftus-Cheek, he’s been given his chance,” Neville told Sky Sports.
“I thought he was really disappointing. I don’t think Loftus-Cheek can complain. He’s been given games.
“I don’t think he’s ever grasped his chance yet. There’s going to come a point when they’re going to cash in and get £25m for him.”
But Lampard did not concur with Neville after the game and insisted Loftus-Cheek needs to be given more time following his return from injury.
“With Ruben obviously he’s been out for a long time, even his return to play was pretty broken by lockdown and the restart when he was just about to play some games,” Lampard said.
“We certainly have to give Ruben a bit of time on those fronts. But it’s a position Ruben can play for us. Yeah, we’ve got injuries in forward areas in terms of Ziyech is out, Pulisic is out as well, there are players who will come back who will give me lots of options.
“It was interesting for me to see Ruben in that No.10 position today. He can certainly give us lots in those areas.”
Barkley the ‘link’ man
Reece James’ thunderbolt and a Kurt Zouma header sealed a 3-1 victory for Chelsea with Barkley’s arrival sandwiching those second-half goals.
Lampard did take time to praise Barkley and they shape he gave the team.
“I think with Ross, that’s where I’m talking about the shape of the team,’ Lampard told Chelsea TV.
“We ended up a little bit too advanced in high areas. Everybody [was] advanced.
“I felt that Ross would come and link it a bit more between the lines and just steady us down and get more passes in. ‘He did that for us and that helped us gain a bit more control from then on.”