CHELSEA midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek is hoping to make the advanced third-man midfield spot his own under Maurizio Sarri.
The Blues academy graduate is looking to make his mark on the first team at Stamford Bridge following a successful season-long loan at Crystal Palace last term.
The 22-year-old made more Premier League appearances in one season with the Eagles than in his previous three at Chelsea since making his senior debut in December 2014.
Loftus-Cheek’s progress saw him rewarded with his first England cap last November while he went on to make four appearances at the World Cup in Russia.
The appointment of Maurizio Sarri could see Loftus-Cheek’s importance to the Chelsea first team increase significantly and he came off the bench in their 3-0 opening win at Huddersfield last Saturday.
But there is plenty of competition for places with Jorginho, N’Golo Kante and Ross Barkley having started at Huddersfield – with Loftus-Cheek replacing Barkley to place in his favoured position for the final 20 minutes.
Sarri can also call upon loanee Mateo Kovacic, Cesc Fabregas and Danny Drinkwater – though the latter could be loaned out overseas before the end of the month, Express Sport understands.
But Loftus-Cheek’s Huddersfield cameo follows claims from Palace boss Roy Hodgson that Chelsea denied Loftus-Cheek a return to Selhurst Park earlier in the summer because they did not want to loan him out.
It has also been reported that a temporary switch to Bundesliga club Schalke was turned down this week.
And addressing his future having remained in west London after the end of the transfer window for English clubs, Loftus-Cheek insists he hopes to establish a regular role in Sarri’s midfield three.
“I’ve played in a few positions, mostly on the left of midfield [at Palace] last season,” he told Chelsea’s official website.
“Playing in a 4-3-3 in an attacking midfield position is kind of my position really, my suited position, so hopefully I can bring my best football to the team.
“The boys are working really hard trying to understand how the boss wants us to play, on and off the ball, and it will only get better.
“I have just got to work hard, try and play my best football, and try and get as much time on the pitch as possible.
Asked about his targets for the 2018-19 season, Loftus-Cheek added: “You can only really set specific targets when you know you’re playing every week.
“So for me it’s just a case of getting my head down, working hard, trying to understand the manager’s tactics and going from there.”
Discussing his loan spell at Palace, where only injury prevented him from making more than his 24 league appearances, Loftus-Cheek hailed an experience he believes he can draw on this term.
He continued: “We had a period at the start where we didn’t get a win for seven games. I’ve experienced that and it wasn’t nice.
“And I’ve experienced a good run at the end as well, and a decent run in the middle, so I feel like I experienced a lot in one season – different managers as well.
“The loan did me really good. I feel like I have got that experience of a Premier League season now, and international football as well.
“I feel more mature as a player to help battle for three points every game.”
Loftus-Cheek will hope to get more minutes on the pitch this weekend when Chelsea host Arsenal in an intriguing encounter at Stamford Bridge on Saturday (5.30pm).