Stop the blame game – injuries to Chelsea stars were luckless accidents
Why have Chelsea lost two key homegrown talents to the same Achilles injury in such a short space of time? And what does it mean for the players, and club? Dan Levene on two hugely unfortunate, but unlinked incidents.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek of Chelsea is challenged by Diego Fagundez of New England Revolution (R) during the Friendly Match match between New England Revolution and Chelsea at Gillette Stadium on May 15, 2019 in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
But there is one serious lower leg injury which leaves such advice redundant.
When a player completely ruptures their Achilles, they tend to instantly know.
When Callum Hudson-Odoi suffered such a fate only a few weeks back, he was certain enough of what had happened, he was able to share the terrible self-diagnosis with one reporter as he left the stadium.
And while, last Wednesday night in Foxborough, Ruben Loftus-Cheek was quite understandably not for talking; one look at his face said all anyone needed to know.
He presumably would have been all too acutely aware of exactly what form such an injury takes, having discussed it only recently with his friend and team-mate.
Athletes whose bodies have had the misfortune to traverse the same path talk of feeling it 'pop'. Some have even said they heard it go.
There is never any good time to suffer such a serious injury.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek of Chelsea is helped off the pitch by medical staff during the Friendly Match match between New England Revolution and Chelsea at Gillette Stadium on May 15, 2019 in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
Image credit: Getty Images
And for Chelsea's two greatest home-grown rising stars to succumb to almost identical injuries in such a short space of time is incredibly unfortunate.
Despite the attempts of some to desperately seek a cause to blame for such injuries – particularly in the case of Loftus-Cheek – they both appear to be utterly luckless accidents.
In the absence of an opposition player to find culpable, people have tried to heap opprobrium on either Maurizio Sarri for playing one or both (ludicrous in the case of two fit players), or the club for scheduling a friendly match in the USA (when such no-contact injuries can just as easily happen in training).
Some have even sought to blame the artificial pitch at the Gillette Stadium – it was actually a grass pitch, rather than the fibre surface used there for NFL games.
Sometimes, these things just happen.
The immediate concern for both players will be the games they miss.
As young stars steeped in the culture and history of Chelsea, there will be the abject misery of missing out on the coming Europa League final – a game which Loftus-Cheek had seemed certain to start.
Both will also miss out in the potentially once-in-a-lifetime chance of the Nations League semi and final with England, in Portugal.
But the real issues are the disruption to momentum, as both were making team spaces their own; as well as the fear of lost ground in both ability and influence within the squad.
Loftus-Cheek's injury would seem to make a permanent deal for Mateo Kovacic almost a certainty – the Croatian being one of the few players the club knows they will be able to sign this summer, even if the FIFA transfer ban is upheld.
While Hudson-Odoi's time out comes as the superiority of Chelsea's wide-men is about to undergo a reassessment, due to the inevitable summer departure of Eden Hazard.
Yes, the proximity to the summer break does give both a three-month added window to recover; but this is a key time for Chelsea, and whoever might be coaching the side next year, to establish a natural pecking order within the playing staff.
Sport can be incredibly harsh to young and talented athletes, and never more so in the case of such career-disrupting injuries.
It will be scant consolation to either, right now, but there is one thing they can at least count upon: the support of all around the club over the course of their long recovery.