Romelu Lukaku: Why is the Chelsea striker struggling to replicate his best form for Thomas Tuchel’s side? | Soccer News

0

Romelu Lukaku could be seen protesting against Hakim Ziyech as the Chelsea and Brighton players headed for the tunnel at half-time in Tuesday’s encounter at the Amex Stadium.

The visitors were ahead thanks to Ziyech’s long-range strike, but it had been another frustrating night for Lukaku, something he seemed to be letting his team-mate know.

The second half followed a familiar pattern, both for Lukaku, who was substituted late for only touching the ball 18 times, and for Chelsea, who fell 13 points from winning positions this season with the franchise. of Brighton’s equaliser.

Lukaku started the season well, scoring four goals in his first four appearances after his £97.5million move from Inter Milan in August, but an ankle injury in October hampered his progress and the months that followed were not easy.

The Belgian expressed his frustrations with Chelsea’s tactical approach in an interview with Sky in Italy, for which he apologized earlier this month, but will face Tottenham on Sunday having scored just twice in his last 12 Premier League appearances. Its form is closely examined, as is the way Thomas Tuchel uses it.

Lukaku’s Changing Role

Lukaku’s interview with Sky in Italy left him with some work to do to repair relations with Chelsea supporters, but it was nonetheless interesting to hear the striker speak so openly.

His comments on Chelsea made headlines, but there were plenty more on Inter. He said his time there had “saved his career” after a difficult time at Manchester United. Manager Antonio Conte has been described as a ‘massive influence’.

The success of his time in Italy, where he scored 64 goals in 95 appearances in all competitions and helped Inter win the Serie A title for the first time in over a decade, was largely due to how Conte set up his team. .

It was designed to play to Lukaku’s strengths. Conte rarely deviated from a 3-5-2 formation and Lukaku formed a formidable striking partnership with Lautaro Martinez. “I could die on the pitch for him,” said Lukaku Sky in Italy of the Argentinian international.

Tuchel’s preferred system is similar to Conte’s in that it also consists of a back three, but there is a fundamental difference in attack, where Lukaku usually operates as a lone striker, flanked by two wide attackers, rather than in a front two.

This is problematic for Lukaku for several reasons.

Firstly, this means he must perform the functions of a target man, gain possession with his back to goal in the central areas, hold the ball and feed the runners on either side of him.

It’s a role he seems physically well suited for but it’s not one he enjoys.

“The way I’m built – I’m quite tall – everyone thinks I’m some kind of target man: just hold the ball and be a goal poacher,” he said in a UEFA interview published in October.

“But I’ve never played that way and I hate it. My biggest strength is that I’m dangerous when I face goal because that’s where I rarely make bad choices.”

Romelu Lukaku's shot production has dropped dramatically this season
Picture:
Romelu Lukaku’s shot production has dropped dramatically this season

Lukaku was able to play that way at Inter, in front of goal rather than away from it, partly thanks to his attacking form, which brings us to the second reason for his slower start to life at Chelsea.

The lack of wide forwards at Inter allowed Lukaku to spend more time in his preferred inside right position, where he could collect the ball facing forward and head for goal.

Many of the best performances of his career have come from this area. He destroyed Arsenal twice from there, once with Everton in 2014 and again with Manchester United in 2018, and he did the same in Brazil with Belgium in the 2018 World Cup quarter-finals.

Graphic

At Chelsea, Tuchel’s preference for deploying two supporting strikers, one on each side, means that Lukaku’s preferred areas are usually occupied, restricting his freedom and giving him fewer opportunities to gain possession of the ball in areas deeper.

Instead, it is often isolated.

This season, in addition to taking fewer shots and scoring fewer goals than at Inter, the 28-year-old is touching the ball less, making fewer passes and creating fewer chances.

It should also be noted that despite his reduced participation, Lukaku significantly disputes Following aerial duels – his average of 6.2 per 90 minutes is up from 3.3 per 90 minutes at Inter last season – providing further evidence of how his role has become that of a target man .

Lack of service and chemistry

Lukaku is not blameless for his struggles. There were costly missed chances, notably in last weekend’s 1-0 loss to Manchester City, after which his contribution was criticized by Tuchel.

“We had eight or nine attacking transitions, but no touches in the box,” Tuchel said. BT Sports. Lukaku, he added, had displayed “a lack of positioning, timing and composure”.

Romelu Lukaku - Brighton v Chelsea
Picture:
Romelu Lukaku has struggled to make an impact lately

“Of course we want to serve him, continued Tuchel, but he is part of the team, and the performance in front, we can do much better.

“Lukaku sometimes needs to serve, he’s included in that. He had a lot of lost balls in very promising circumstances and he was hugely lucky.”

Lukaku’s missed opportunity that day, when he opted to feed Ziyech early on instead of shooting himself in the head, showed that his confidence had suffered, but the circumstances did not. aid.

In the striker’s 17 starts, Tuchel has used 10 different combinations in Chelsea’s forward line. Lukaku has occasionally been deployed in a front two but even then his partner’s identity has varied. It’s a far cry from the consistency and stability he had alongside Martinez at Inter.

Tuchel’s rotation was born out of necessity at times, of course, with Christian Pulisic, Kai Havertz, Ziyech, Mason Mount and Timo Werner all hit by injury at various times.

But the biggest problem is that none of these players have been able to perform at a consistently high level. Indeed, of Chelsea’s forwards this season, only Mount and Callum Hudson-Odoi rank among the top 50 Premier League players in terms of chances created.

Reece James is also there, but with him and compatriot Ben Chilwell now sidelined by long-term injuries, Chelsea’s creativity in general has deteriorated, as has the serve at Lukaku.

He averaged almost four shots every 90 minutes in his first four Premier League appearances of the season. Since then, however, he hasn’t managed more than two shots on goal in a single game.

There is a lack of chemistry as well as service.

Opta streak data shows that Mount and midfielder Mateo Kovacic are the only players Lukaku regularly combines with.

Remarkably, Hudson-Odoi, Werner and Ziyech have only found it with 12 assists between them in the Premier League so far this season. Havertz, meanwhile, hasn’t even found him once despite four games alongside him.

The situation leaves Tuchel something to think about. The manager played down Lukaku’s struggles after the game against Brighton – “Romelu is by far not the problem”, he said – but until he finds a way to play to his strengths , Chelsea could continue to stutter.

Watch Chelsea vs Spurs Live Sky Sports Premier League from 4:15 p.m. on Sunday; kick off 4:30 p.m.

Share.

Comments are closed.