LONDON — Maurizio Sarri backed Ruben Loftus-Cheek to become “very important” for Chelsea in the coming weeks.
Loftus-Cheek’s immediate future has become the subject of intense speculation since he returned to Stamford Bridge after spending last season on loan at Crystal Palace, with Sarri starting Ross Barkley ahead of the academy graduate against Huddersfield Town and Arsenal and picking loanee Mateo Kovacic for Sunday’s win over Newcastle United.
Last week Sarri confirmed that Loftus-Cheek will stay at Stamford Bridge and reassess his future ahead of the January transfer window. He is confident the 22-year-old will get more minutes once Europa League and Carabao Cup commitments begin in September, but said that a regular starting spot will not come easily.
“I can say that I am really very happy with him because, in the last 10 days, he has improved a lot,” Sarri said of Loftus-Cheek. “So we’re really very happy with him.
“I think that he will be important for sure. Starting in September, we will play every three days, so Loftus-Cheek will be very important and useful for us.
“It’s not easy to play here, because here there are 20, 25 very good players, so it’s not easy to play in the starting XI. But I think if he will improve more, he is ready to play from the beginning.”
Asked why Loftus-Cheek has not featured more regularly for Chelsea so far this season, Sarri said: “Because he has to improve, just in order to play my football. He has great qualities from a physical point of view, and technical point of view. I think he needs to improve from the tactical point of view, nothing else.”
Aston Villa are interested in taking Tammy Abraham on loan at least until January, and the striker is considering his options.
Sarri would like him to stay, but added he cannot offer the 20-year-old the regular minutes he craves.
“It’s up to him,” Sarri said. “I am not able to guarantee to him a spot at the moment, but if he wants to remain, I’m really very happy with him. He’s very young for a striker, and can improve more. I think it’s up to him.”
Sarri has no new injury worries for the visit of Bournemouth to Stamford Bridge on Saturday, but Cesc Fabregas remains unavailable as he continues to train alone in his recovery from a lingering injury near the knee.
“Cesc is still out,” he said. “Actually, he is working in water. We hope that next week he will be able to work on the pitch. I am sure the injury is not serious, but he has pain out of his knee. So it’s a bit strange, but nothing serious. The pain is still there, so for him, now, it’s impossible to run on the pitch. He’s only able to run in water.”
Sarri also insisted he is having no second thoughts about his decision to shift N’Golo Kante into a more advanced midfield role this season, despite former Chelsea manager Ruud Gullit describing the move as “strange.”
“My opinion is that Kante is a great midfielder, and I think that he is able to play in every position in my midfield,” he said. “It’s not a problem for him. I was surprised from the technical qualities of Kante [when I arrived].”