Chelsea – Lille: Ghostly against Crystal Palace, is Romelu Lukaku lost for Chelsea?

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Rarely has the expression “wandering like a lost soul” stuck so much to the description of a player during a match. You had to see Romelu Lukaku wandering, haggard, on the lawn of Selhurst Park to grasp the extent of the discomfort that his case has represented in recent weeks at Chelsea. Isolated, disconnected and almost lost in the animation of the Blues, the Belgian had a rickety match, punctuated by… 7 balls touched, including one on the only kick-off.

The stat challenges and sets an unenviable record, especially for a player of his status: Opta had never recorded such discretion since collecting data in this competition. Faced with such a shortage, it is difficult to remain fully mobilized. Even Alan Shearer sympathized in Match of the Day: “In the first half, he had only one touch other than the kick-offhe explained. A key ! It’s everyone’s fault. There is definitely a misunderstanding between what he needs and what he receives. He even stopped running at times because the ball never came“.

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Six months after his return to London, against nearly 115 million euros, almost three months after the New Year’s psychodrama, nothing has really returned to normal for Lukaku. Arrived at the European champion in the hope of completing an armada destined to reign, expected like the last stage of the rocket, the Belgian is still slow to start his second life at Chelsea.

Romelu Lukaku against Manchester City

Credit: Getty Images

The system in question?

Without being alarming, his statistics remain far from his usual standards (10 goals in 28 matches) and the enchanting parenthesis of the Club World Cup was violently closed on Saturday: yes, there is indeed a Lukaku problem at Stamford Bridge.

Although annoyed by the situation, Thomas Tuchel preferred to play on words in the face of discomfort. “It’s an ongoing process but ‘disappointed’ is not the right word to explain the feeling that the staff and Romelu haveexplained the German in his demining operation. We ask a lot of our attackers in terms of intensity and we must work more to create situations for him and to understand him better.“.

In mid-January, however, the tone was very different after a shock against Manchester City crossed like a ghost (1-0), another one. “Sometimes he has to do the job too, warned the German. He had a lot of ball losses and huge chances. Of course, we want to serve him, but he is part of the team”. But not necessarily from a game system from which it seems cut off…

Expected as an outstanding finisher, Lukaku is thus often the only center forward in Thomas Tuchel’s compositions. The schemes used in recent weeks have been as varied as they are numerous: 3-4-2-1, 4-2-3-1 or 4-1-4-1. None really helped Lukaku even if Kai Havertz’s hybrid profile sometimes connected him better to the game. So what’s the problem? Probably a bad perception of a center-forward Lukaku with dad rather than a modern scorer.

Romelu Lukaku

Credit: Getty Images

I don’t think Chelsea have figured out how to use it yetsaid Antonio Conte, the man behind the prolific duo “LuLa” at Inter, to Sky Italia last September. I think we did a great job with Romelu for two years. He is a very specific attacker. We must bring Lukaku into the box, he is dangerous. But when he starts from midfield, he is incredibly quick. It’s very difficult to find a player who is both a finisher, but who can also run from midfield“.

In other words, limiting Lukaku to a “target man” in pivot would be to miss the very essence of a player who is almost more formidable when he arrives launched. “It’s not a question of the system“, However, Tuchel defended himself on Saturday, no doubt aware that his workforce could not offer him what he needed, on pain of sacrificing the strengths which took Chelsea to the top of Europe last June.

“The relationship is broken”

The construction of the workforce (proliferation of wingers and side players, dominant central midfielders and no second striker – unless you consider Timo Werner in this role -) therefore encourages Tuchel to the Coué method. “We still have to believe in him because he has proven that he can be the one who concludes the actions“, said Tuchel.

It is undoubtedly also to miss the frustration of a champion who works on ego and confidence, as Thierry Henry has undoubtedly understood, to whom he is very close in selection. For some, the break is already recorded and “can’t be fixed“, as Nigel Reo-Coker, a former player turned pundit for the BBC, notably argued. According to him, everything broke during the controversial speech last December.
The relationship is broken and it will never be like beforeestimated the former midfielder in the Football Daily podcast earlier this month. He is already convinced that the team does not play according to his qualities and that it will be systematically difficult. So he is no longer the same player, the one who abused Serie A and destroyed defenses in the previous two seasons. It’s very complicated to come back from this kind of incident as a player and it’s only thanks to the human management of the staff that Chelsea will be able to get something out of him.“. It’s up to Thomas Tuchel to still work miracles with his cuddle therapy. Even if it means becoming Sports Minister again rather than a coach for a few hours…
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