After Tuchel’s criticism: Chelsea FC and Romelu Lukaku

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Chelsea’s crash in the championship in recent weeks seems closely linked to the unrest surrounding Romelu Lukaku. Thomas Tuchel expects more from the 115-million man, the Belgian striker only delivers rudimentary and reacts indignantly. But why isn’t the beefy striker working for the Blues yet?

With a transfer fee of 115 million euros, Romelu Lukaku became Chelsea FC’s record transfer in August 2021. The Champions League winners from London appeared to have found the last piece of the puzzle in their squad. Coach Thomas Tuchel was happy about the transfer of the desired player, Lukaku was enthusiastic: “I’m happy and blessed to be back at this wonderful club.”

Lukaku was already under contract with the Blues between 2011 and 2014. “I came here as a child who still had a lot to learn,” added the striker. “Now I come back with a lot of experience and even more mature.” The Belgian underlined this with four goals in his first four games for the Blues. But then he sprained his ankle and the first spell quickly wore off.

Instead of following up on the sport, the now 28-year-old striker responded with statements that cast doubt on his promised maturity. At the end of December, Lukaku told Sky Sport Italia that he was not happy with his situation at Chelsea. He doesn’t like Tuchel’s tactics (with a three-man chain and high full-backs). He still carries Inter in his heart.

It is logical that Tuchel did not like such statements and that he even removed Lukaku from the squad in the meantime. The Belgian apologized publicly to fans and the coaching staff, but his “sorry” seemed a bit staged.

Tuchel criticizes ball losses, Lukaku is missing a second striker

Meanwhile, Chelsea has completely lost touch with Manchester City. After the recent 1-0 defeat at the front runner, Tuchel counted his superstar: “He lost a lot of possession and had a huge chance. Of course we want to serve him in front of goal, but he’s part of the team.” In fact, the German coach could not be satisfied: Lukaku did not provide his teammates with a shot on goal, lost each of his seven duels and only made 58 percent of his passes to the teammate.

The Belgian once again lacked a second real striker, who he always had at Inter in Lautaro Martínez. Both benefited greatly from each other. Lukaku finished last season with 24 goals and an impressive 11 assists in the league alone. With the Blues, on the other hand, Lukaku has only produced two assists in addition to his eight goals in all competitions – both were penalties.

Another explanation is that Lukaku is not optimally integrated into the game. In the last Serie A season he had the equivalent of 40 ball contacts in 90 minutes, at Chelsea there are currently only 32. Accordingly, the Belgian finishes less often: he only fires a shot every 40 minutes, that’s not even with the Blues a top value. At Inter, Lukaku only needed an average of 30 minutes per shot. Just a side note: gala performances like the 4-0 win against Juventus in the group stage of the Champions League or the 7-0 win against Norwich City on the ninth day of the game took place without striker Lukaku.

Chance for Timo Werner at Chelsea?

It begs the question: is Lukaku’s signing a multi-million dollar misunderstanding? Or to put it another way: did the functioning system that Thomas Tuchel used to win the CL really need a center forward like Lukaku? In principle yes, because Lukaku not only has his nose for goals, but also the ability to cleverly pull opposing defenders out of the center to make room for attacking players to move up. Actually ideal for a team like Chelsea.

A factor that Timo Werner could also benefit from. But the German international has had a difficult time in recent months. First a strain put him out of action, then he contracted the corona virus in mid-December and had to struggle with it to the end.

Werner has only been in ten competitive games since Lukaku’s arrival. As in the previous season, his overall record (six goals, two assists) reads well, but not well enough. The interaction with Lukaku still shows room for improvement, but simply took place too seldom.

Ex-Coach Conte: ‘Chelsea don’t know how to best use him’

In just five games, the two played together for more than half time. Tuchel was able to observe that a double lead can work well in the 3: 3 in the Champions League at Zenit St. Petersburg. Werner scored two goals (one after Lukaku was substituted) and set up a goal for the Belgian.

Tuchel has to ask himself how he can best make his 115 million man effective. Master coach Antonio Conte, who last trained Lukaku at Inter, also criticized this at the end of September on the sidelines of the Champions League game against Juventus Turin (0: 1): “If you have a center forward like him, you have to take advantage of it. And I think Chelsea don’t know how best to use it.”

But it is also the duty of the massive attacker to put himself at the service of the team and not give the “smelly boot”. Because that helps neither him nor his teammates.

Lars Wiedemann

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