Ruben Loftus-Cheek was the star of the first episode of a new series on Milan TV called ‘Gameplay’ in which players from the squad will discuss their tactical role in detail.
Loftus-Cheek was one of the first summer signings and he came in from Chelsea to begin rebuilding a midfield department that had just lost Sandro Tonali. A year before that Franck Kessie left on a free, so there was a need for some physicality.
The Englishman quickly became one of Stefano Pioli’s must trusted players, initially starting as more of a box-to-box type and now playing a bit further forward in the attacking midfielder role.
Having gone on a run of four goals in four games last month, there is no doubting that he has found his feet in Italy and he spoke at length about his position and responsibilities to Milan TV.
On his responsibilities on the pitch, as a box-to-box midfielder: “I have played in different positions in my career, so I feel comfortable in any role. As the years go by I feel more and more like an all-round midfielder and it makes me have more fun.”
On his most important quality on the pitch: “Definitely my physicality. I’m robust, I have strength, speed and power, and when I manage to combine these characteristics with my technical qualities, I can have a greater impact on the match.”
On his first role: “I started as number 8, a box-to-box midfielder. I covered the whole pitch. Subsequently I then played in other roles, when necessary also in defense, or attacker, but also on the wing. So yes, I covered all the roles.”
On if he would like to play in net like Giroud did: “Maybe. Maybe one day I’ll be able to do this too, but the only role I haven’t played yet is left back. So I’d say I’m only missing that role.”
On his touchmap comparison from the Torino and Roma games: “I had slightly different tasks. Against Torino I played as an 8 on the right in a three-man midfield. While against Roma I played mainly in the middle immediately behind the striker.
“They are slightly different roles tactically, against Torino the touches were mostly on the right, while against the Giallorossi I tended to vary from left to right.”
On this touchmap for the season so far which highlights his presence in every part of the pitch: “This is the contribution I can make especially in midfield, where you have to be good at both defending and attacking.
“Sometimes you can also find yourself in the middle between having to defend and restarting immediately for attacking runs. But, yes, I feel good almost everywhere on the pitch, and I always try to find the position in which I can be most dangerous.”
On the importance of winning many individual duels in Serie A: “It’s important in every competition: it’s always a battle, especially in midfield, where you want to win those duels.
“Every time duels arise, I want to win as many as possible, taking advantage my strength and physicality, and this can impact the team’s victories.”
On games with 100% successful passes in the final third: “In the attacking midfield, precision matters a lot and sometimes it’s difficult to make the right pass and, above all, do it well.
“It also depends on which area of the pitch you are in at that moment. You find yourself at the crossroads and you have to deciding whether to make a risky or safe pass, making the right decision is crucial.
“Do I like risky passes? It’s one of the points I need to improve, generally I prefer to run and try some dribbling, but sometimes I should try more key passes that can lead to the goal.”
On the work done to improve weaknesses: “We are constantly working to improve ourselves, and with today’s technologies it is much simpler.
“Even just being able to review the images of the matches and discuss with the coach how to improve is a very important aspect Then we are always on the field, this helps us a lot.”
On his first assist against Torino: “I didn’t immediately see Christian [Pulisic], but I noticed the great work done by Olivier [Giroud] who runs towards the near post, freeing up space in the middle of the area. It was a great goal” .
On Pulisic and their understanding: “We understand each other well, I know his movements. We got along very well especially in the first part of the season, where we both played on the right. It’s always a pleasure to play with him.”
On the connection between him and Giroud, and on the exploitation of the spaces that the Frenchman creates, referring to the penalty against Roma: “I love playing with Oli, he’s a great player. He always comes to help you and is perfect for playing on the edge.
“My task is to find the spaces that he frees up, even with a one-two, as on the occasion of the penalty against Roma. And this is precisely one of those occasions in which he came towards me.”