We talk to the 27-year-old about playing regularly, being adaptable, battling hard in Dortmund and the big Champions League encounter to come…
With 16 starts in the league and 19 in all competitions, Ruben has already surpassed his best previous Chelsea seasons for those figures and ahead of the domestic season restart this weekend, we begin our exclusive interview by talking about the quantity of games he has played…
This season you have already made more starts than in any of your other Chelsea seasons so far. Does this feel like a season of good involvement for you?
It feels like I've been an integral part of the team this season, starting a lot of Premier League games, Champions League games. I feel like I've contributed to what the team has done this season. I've been away and come back, been away and come back, so to have that now is good.
Even when you have had an injury this season it came at a relatively good time…
It was kind of a freak injury really, at the start of the Newcastle game which was just before the World Cup. That took a while to recover so it couldn't have come at a better time really, if I was to get injured. Obviously you don’t want to get injured but I only ended up missing a few games after that when the boys came back from the World Cup. I've been pretty injury-free for quite a long time so I'm very pleased with that.
There’s been a lot of hard work behind the scenes and routines I’m in that keep me available to be selected. That's the key. If you want to play well, first you've got to be available for selection.
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It is not the only position you have played this season but you have featured plenty of times as a central midfielder…
I've played a few positions but mostly this season either centre-midfield or right wing-back. Of course I want to play in midfield but sometimes you have to do a job in different positions, as I can play a few positions. I haven't really played in that kind of attacking midfield position on the left side for a couple of years now.
You must be getting quite used to the right wing-back role now…
When it first came about it was kind of a shock. Thomas Tuchel pitched it to me and said he thought I'd be quite effective there with my touch and running power in the wide areas. Sometimes he even gave me the freedom to come inside so it was a hybrid really of a full-back, a winger and a midfielder. At first it was foreign but having played there a few times now, I’m starting to feel quite comfortable there.
The first time you were asked to play wing-back may not have been as big a surprise as when Antonio Conte played you up front. How do you look back on that now?
Well I've played every position on the pitch except left-back, and keeper of course, so that’s quite funny now when you look back on it. When I started my first real campaign in the first team, I was predominantly an attacking midfielder behind the striker. When Conte came in he played two strikers without an attacking midfielder so it was either a striker or a kind of number six for me and at the time, a striker was more suited to me.
Unlike current times when you have been effective as a deeper midfielder. The team has largely been solid defensively as a team this season. Does the way you and the midfield play have quite a bit to do with that?
The number six position has a lot of responsibility defensively to protect the back-four and be solid in the middle of the park, where you don't want big gaps and big spaces for teams to exploit. So it's a disciplined role in there. But definitely the whole team has contributed to why we've been solid defensively this season.
A lot of people enjoyed watching the battle you personally had against Jude Bellingham over in the away game in Dortmund. You put in more tackles than anyone else in that game…
Firstly, to play in that stadium was an experience with the noise and the atmosphere, it was something else. To play in that hostile environment against a good team in the Champions League, this is why you do it. It's why you play football. In those games when you play away you have to get stuck in, trying to win the 50-50s and be physical, and that is what the game had for me.
We enjoy it as well when the game gets like that. That’s football, there are different ways you have to play, sometimes. Whether you like it or not, sometimes it might get a bit scruffy and not pretty, but you have to do that to win and we have to find the enjoyment in that.
Speaking of the Champions League, we know what the next step is – a tie against Real Madrid beginning with another game in the Bernabeu, where you were heavily involved last season…
It's a test for us and we know what Madrid are like in this competition. Regardless of what they're doing in their own league, they always seem to step up in the Champions League but we held our own against them last season and we were unlucky to go out really, considering where we were late in the game.
It was just some quality that they brought at the end of the game, and they showed that through all the stages, so it was their season last season. But definitely we are not going to roll over easily.
Will we see a goal from you this season?
I hope so. I haven't been playing in attacking positions, I’ve been predominantly just in front of the back four. Sometimes you have to be disciplined and sacrifice that for the team but of course I want to score goals and hopefully I will get one.
Finally, you are one of the old hands now in terms of length of time at Chelsea. Do you feel you have a role in helping all the new arrivals acclimatise?
I feel like a senior player, being here so long and knowing what it means to be Chelsea - that it is a place with a winning mentality, with a history of winning.
I know this season has not been immaculate but we do our best to show the boys coming in that this is a place for winning and we don’t accept anything else. I think we need to help the new players feel what it is to be Chelsea.