Luton 2-3 Chelsea: Five things we learnt as Ruben Loftus Cheek shines on a difficult evening for the Blues

From one cup competition to another, Chelsea came from behind twice to defeat Championship Luton 3-2 and progress to the quarter finals of the FA Cup.

Reece Burke got the near cup upset underway in the second minute before Harry Cornick reignited the hosts’ hopes late in the first half.

Sandwiched in between Luton’s two goals was Saul Niguez’s first for the club before the duo of Timo Werner and Romelu Lukaku ensured Chelsea wouldn’t be the FA Cup’s next victim.

Chelsea celebrate after going 3-2 in front against Luton | Image credit:
Chelsea celebrate after going 3-2 in front against Luton | Image credit:

The good and the bad side of Timo Werner

The German’s struggles since joining the London club in the summer of 2020 have been well documented but the support from fans has never gone away, mainly because of his credible work ethic regardless of his performance.

Wednesday night seemed to be going the way of many of his previous performances as he looked devoid of all confidence and belief in himself at times with a 20% dribble success rate and two out of nine ground duels won. However, an inadvertent assist for Saul’s goal was followed by a composed finish for Chelsea’s second before a pinpoint ball across the box for Lukaku’s winner.

Fans will be hoping he uses this as a launchpad for the rest of the season and it is not another false dawn.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek reminds everyone of his potential in Luton man of the match display

Eyebrows were raised when the team news came out with Loftus-Cheek listed to play in defence and he lined up as the central centre back in Thomas Tuchel’s traditional back three system. We have seen Tuchel use a similar player in Lewis Baker at the heart of a back three in a preseason game against Bournemouth but never in a competitive game.

Early on he looked quite unsure of himself from the fast start made by Luton but recovered well to win the majority of his duels and use his 1.91m frame to his advantage. The highlight of his man of the match display would be his driving runs out with the ball and they were the catalyst for the Blues’ comeback. His assist for Werner’s goal has brought comparisons to balls played by that of Cesc Fabregas in his career.

Saul Niguez gives Tuchel a nudge after strong display against the Hatters

The Spanish midfielder has been slowly growing into his loan spell at Chelsea after a poor start and an impressive display against Luton marks another step on his journey.

On the whole it was mature display from the 27 year old and in particular he shone in a poor first half showing from the team. He was visibly trying to dictate proceedings and get the team on the front foot. This was illustrated perfectly by his goal on his weak foot from outside of the area. His desire to get forward ensured he was in the right place when the ball fell from Werner and his fantastic finish shocked many fans.

Despite being behind Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic and N’golo Kante in the pecking order, his recent performances could well see him feature more in the coming weeks as Tuchel continues to juggle a busy fixture list.

Harvey Vale pushes open the Cobham door

Ever since Frank Lampard took the reigns at the start of the 2019/20 season there has been a consistent flow of graduates from Cobham making their mark in the first team environment. Trevoh Chalobah is the main one to make his mark this season but also Lewis Hall, Xavier Simons, Jude Soonsup-Bell and Harvey Vale have all made appearances.

Six days on from his best attempt to replicate Hakim Ziyech’s goal against Tottenham, the young attacker got his chance against Luton and forced Harry Isted into a save down low to his right. Away from that it was an efficient performance from Vale as he made himself readily available to receive the ball at any time. A hunger fans love to see.

After being kept back in January for more first team opportunities, fans will be hoping to see more of him on the pitch in the latter stages of the season.

Malang Sarr has a night to forget

Just like Vale, Malang Sarr was kept back from going out on loan, this time in the summer window and more down to the fact the move fell through late on. Nevertheless, he has made progress in a couple of roles throughout the season as an auxiliary player. But Wednesday acted as a blow to that development.

The Frenchman lost Burke for the first goal allowing a free run and header at Luke Berry’s corner. Then he stepped up to play the offside trap but did so too late allowing Chelsea fan Cornick to run clear and put the Hatters ahead for the second time on the night. In general play, Sarr looked shaky and unsure of himself on many occasions against a Luton side intent on playing with high intensity. Also, he nearly gifted Danny Hylton with a gilt edged chance in the second half with a wayward pass.

Everyone will be hoping this is just a blip and a one off for Sarr as with the current centre back injury problems and pending departures in the summer, his role at Chelsea is far from done.

Written and edited by Harrison Burridge (@hburridge2)

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