Chelsea boss Frank Lampard says criticism of Ruben Loftus-Cheek for his below-par display in the win over Brighton is both “harsh” and “reactionary”.
Sky Sports pundits and Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher were disparaging in their assessment of Loftus-Cheek’s efforts against the Seagulls, saying he failed to take his chance to impress.
But they neglected to mention the Achilles injury which saw the England midfielder sidelined for 13 months.
Loftus-Cheek excelled while on a season-long loan with Crystal Palace in the 2017-18 season and made four appearances for England as Gareth Southgate’s side reached the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup, but was then injured on a post-season friendly in 2018-19.
Lampard said: “If there is harsh criticism of Ruben in the game against Brighton then it is certainly very harsh because coming back from an injury like that is difficult.
“He has put in a lot of hours into it and he is a hugely talented player, a great lad, and there will be lots more to come from Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
“Unfortunately the nature of this game is very reactionary and people will say it is as they see it, but knowing Ruben’s story behind the scenes he has fought back really hard to get where he is.”
Neville, a former international team-mate of Lampard’s, said Loftus-Cheek “was really disappointing”.
“I don’t think Loftus-Cheek can complain,” Neville added.
“He’s been given games. I don’t think he’s ever grasped his chance yet. There’s going to come a point when they’re going to cash in and get £25m for him.”
Carragher, also a one-time England colleague of the Chelsea head coach, said: “When he was at Crystal Palace you thought ‘what a player’.
“He’s got to say he wants to play every single week. If you get your chance you have to grab it. He’s had his chances now.”
Lampard said Loftus-Cheek’s return needs to be given proper context and he deserves credit for the way he has overcome serious injury.
“I know Ruben’s story probably second best to how he knows it,” Lampard explained.
“Ruben had a terrible injury – one that he worked hard to come back from over the course of last season.
“He was just about to play under-23s games when lockdown came in.
“He worked incredibly hard in restart and got a start against Aston Villa and was due to start against Bayern Munich in the last game of the season but had a bit of an issue on the day of the game.
“He has trained brilliantly again to get fit for the start of the season.”