Romelu Lukaku has gone six games without a goal, and the longer that streak goes on, the bigger issue it’s going to become — especially if Chelsea overall continue to struggle for goals as well. That “struggle” is all relative of course, but it’s hard to ignore the recent dip that has seen us score just 5 goals in 5 games (with two blanks) after scoring 14 in the 7 previous (with zero blanks) in all competitions.
Then again, it’s always been defense-first with Tuchel, who’s made it clear that our primary aim is to be “hard to beat”. And we’ve certainly lived up to that ideal. But Lukaku was the club-record investment to help solve our issues at the other end, and that hasn’t quite happened yet — despite everyone’s best efforts and intentions. In fact, as Tuchel sees it, we might be overdoing it in a certain sense, with Lukaku himself getting run into the ground.
“In the very moment I feel Romelu a bit overplayed. I think he played too many competitions over the summer, too many competitions with the national team and now he has played the Nations League. He is a fantastic athlete and such a competitive guy that he digs in deep, he wants to win these things and he never takes it easy and judges games.
“He wants to be out there and win [but] I feel him a bit mentally tired. Not hugely that we have concern but for me he does not fully enjoy without having second or third thoughts, for me he overplayed and this is the key point. Once he finds his rhythm and things a bit easier he will be fine but it is hard to judge if he really needs a break or if we need to keep him on the pitch.”
Perhaps it’s time to work smarter, rather than harder?
Tuchel has already hinted at giving a bit of rest to Romelu this week, just as he had done with Chilwell, Havertz, Jorginho, and even Mount recently. We have a big enough squad to rotate and keep players as fresh as possible despite the demands on them from both club and country.
“It means a lot to [Romelu] to play for his country. So he takes it really seriously and if it doesn’t go well he always takes it on his shoulders. [...] The next international break is coming but this is what I feel, particularly for him.
“Some other players too for me is the same with Mason and Jorgi, they struggle. They have a lot of weight to carry for the countries, they take it and they love it, they are competitors. If you play 1000 matches a year it can feel heavy although they love the game. This is what I feel.”
“[When] you travel through time zones, in a hotel, then you change the hotel, one day at home, see family, then back to hotel, play at Brentford then it’s Champions League, it can be tiring [and] quality player need to be in shape.
“This is simply, too much football in too many competitions.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.London
Managing this conundrum and challenge often separates the contenders from the pretenders, and can be the biggest difference between a good season and a great season — both for individual players and the team as a whole. Tuchel is of course aware of this as well. He’s pressed the right buttons more often than not during his time at Stamford Bridge, so hopefully he will continue to do so for a good while yet!