When Fulham gained promotion to the Premier League after overcoming Brentford in the Championship playoff final, it appeared as though things would be different this time around. At least, that was the plan anyway.
The Cottagers weren't looking to buy a whole new squad, completely abandoning the philosophy that got them to the top flight in the first place.
But oh, how quickly this has changed.
They may be just four Premier League games (and four defeats) into the new season, but Scott Parker has already made wholesale changes to his side in a desperate attempt to try and find the winning formula, while the club have also gone and done exactly what they weren't looking to do. Yep, they went and brought in player after player...after player.
This isn't to say that the club haven't actually made a number of promising additions. Indeed, the arrival of Ademola Lookman on loan will help provide better service for Aleksandar Mitrovic, while a centre-back was also brought in! Oh yes, Joachim Andersen also joined on loan from Lyon on deadline day.
Let's be honest though, it didn't really matter which centre-back came in considering their levels of desperation, did it? Just ask Tony Khan.
Fulham have had problems at both ends of the pitch so far this term, but Andersen will undoubtedly help strengthen what can only be called an outrageously leaky defence. But what Parker has missed most so far when in possession is players who can carry the ball forward and bring the attackers into the game, linking the midfield and the forward line.
In the early stages of the season, Mitrovic has often been left isolated up front and unable to really get involved, while the wingers have struggled to get on the ball in order to cause any problems. But in Loftus-Cheek, Fulham now have a player they can build attacks through. With a physical presence, power and height, Loftus-Cheek will add a new dimension to Fulham's midfield - something which they have been lacking.
Perhaps what is most exciting about the arrival of the 24-year-old is his potential partnership with Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa in the heart of the midfield. The two players have the ability to not only close off the spaces when out of possession, but they also have the quality on the ball to calmly bring their teammates into the game.
With Anguissa and Harrison Reed (once he returns from injury) laying the foundations at the base of the midfield, Loftus-Cheek will be given the license to drive forward with the ball and break the lines. His box-to-box style will bring those on the wings into the game more, while he will also be able to link up with Mitrovic better.
Perhaps most crucially, however, he will help address the current lack of goal threat from midfield.
Of course, the Englishman struggled with injuries during the 2019/20 season, but the campaign prior saw him manage ten goals and five assists for Chelsea in 40 appearances. Perhaps what is most impressive about these figures is that just 17 of these appearances came from the start. He was taking his opportunities each time they came his way and it was beginning to look increasingly likely that he would become a key figure in the Blues midfield for the 2019/20 season.
However, his Achilles injury stopped this from happening. Since returning, he simply hasn't been able to find his best form, and he was notably poor in his only appearance of this current season against Brighton on the opening weekend.
Playing without confidence, he was unsure of his options and was guilty of giving the ball away far too often - resulting in him being hooked just after the hour mark. But crucially, it's worth noting that Loftus-Cheek was deployed as a makeshift striker, something which he is not. This role doesn't suit his qualities, as he lacks the space to really have an impact.
The reality is that Loftus-Cheek would have struggled for minutes this season at Chelsea, and even when given the opportunity, he could have been played out of position - like he was against Brighton. The midfielder needed a change of scenery and at Fulham, he has the chance to once again enjoy playing football and in his preferred position as well.
It really isn't that complicated for Fulham and Parker. In Loftus-Cheek, they have a player who is most effective when deployed in a deeper role and given the freedom to make late runs into the opposition's half, using his power and agility. And this is exactly the type of midfielder they have been crying out for as he will help strengthen the side in both the defensive and attacking phases of play. In Loftus-Cheek, Parker has a player that he can now build his midfield around.
As for Loftus-Cheek himself, now 24, the loan to Fulham is the perfect opportunity he has needed for some time to play regularly and the chance to rediscover his best form.
Source : 90min