In Focus: Ruben Loftus-Cheek is the midfielder Southampton have been missing

According to reports in The Mirror, Southampton are leading Premier League rivals Newcastle United, Brighton and Hove Albion and Crystal Palace in the race to sign Chelsea midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek on loan.

What’s the word, then?

Well, the 21-year-old looks set to leave Stamford Bridge on a temporary basis this summer after struggling to break into the first team under Antonio Conte last season, and Saints are ready to beat the newly-promoted duo – and the Eagles – in the battle for the midfielder, according to The Mirror.

The England Under-21 international wants regular playing time next term and he could get the opportunity to get it under new Southampton boss Mauricio Pellegrino.

How did Loftus-Cheek do last season?

After featuring heavily during pre-season last summer, the highly-rated midfielder may have hoped that he would have been given a real chance to shine in the first team under Conte last season, but it just didn’t happen for the 21-year-old.

The England Under-21 international featured just six times in the Premier League – all substitute appearances – and 11 in all competitions in a frustrating campaign, although he did get on the scoresheet twice in FA and League Cup win against Peterborough United and Bristol Rovers respectively.

Why hasn’t he been given an opportunity?

It’s no surprise that he wasn’t a regular given Chelsea were going for the title and the likes of N’Golo Kante, Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas were brilliant in midfield, however he would have expected to play more than 343 minutes of first team football.

Perhaps one of the problems is that Conte used Loftus-Cheek as a striker last year, and therefore was unwilling to use him in a more defensive position.

Would he be a good signing for Southampton?

He certainly would be.

While Saints have Oriol Romeu in central midfield, they lacked height and energy in the middle of the park at times last season and the addition of Loftus-Cheek would certainly help them overcome that issue.

They would also be willing to give the 21-year-old an opportunity – as they have done with the likes of James Ward-Prowse, Jack Stephens and Nathan Redmond recently – and that can only benefit them and the player.

What’s the verdict, then?

Well, there is no doubt that Loftus-Cheek is the type of player Southampton were missing in midfield last season, and it would be a big coup if they could bring him in on loan, although they would probably prefer a permanent deal.

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