Antonio Conte says midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek has all the right characteristics to become a successful striker for Chelsea.
Conte was happy with Wednesday’s 3-0 friendly win against WAC RZ Pellets with Loftus-Cheek, Bertrand Traore and Nathaniel Chalobah all on target.
Having played 45 minutes against Rapid Vienna on Saturday, Loftus-Cheek was a 60th-minute substitute and came on alongside new signing Michy Batshuayi up front. And although it was an unfamiliar role for the 21-year-old, he impressed and capped his display with a rare headed goal. Matt Stead predicted back in May that this could be his season to shine.
“We have many young players and all are working very hard. I’m happy about that,” said Conte.
“Ruben is young with great potential. I like him a lot in the position of striker. He can improve a lot because he has great potential, good technique, good personality and he is good one v one.
“It’s normal he can improve and normal too that Chalobah and (Ola) Aina can improve. Aina is showing the Academy is a good school and it is very important for the club. If I can count on these players it’s a new source for me.
“In the future I want to see other very young players like [Tammy] Abraham and [Dominic] Solanke. I am very happy to have young players to work with, and who I can improve and permit to become Chelsea first team players, not young players.’
“Every manager has their own idea about a system of play. In this system, with two midfielders, Ruben can play close to the other forward but become a forward when we have the ball. He has the right characteristics to play in this position and he showed that today.”
Loftus-Cheek, who was recently named Toulon player of the the tournament, admitted playing up front was new to him, but is eager to impress the new Italian boss.
“I don’t get many with my head so it was nice to score one, luckily for me I was really close to the goal when the corner came in,” he told the club’s website.
‘The boss said he thinks it will suit me to play there and I’m not going to argue with that. It’s a new challenge, it’s different for me but I’m working at it and I felt I did better than I did in Saturday’s game.”
On the whole Conte was impressed with the improvement after the 2-0 defeat to Rapid Vienna.
“Before the game I asked my players that after a week of strong work, physically and tactically, I wanted to see the improvement in our idea of football,”
“I received a good answer. I know we can improve, I know we must improve, but we are at the beginning of the season. We are working very hard. Every day we have two very hard training sessions.
“I saw a lot of good things today and also situations we can improve. That’s normal. It was nice to win, it’s important to have this habit for everyone’s mentality despite many players being very tired after the training sessions. I’m also happy because I saw a good attitude.”