Romelu Lukaku has been scapegoated (again) up and down the Chelsea universe since his seven-touch performance against Crystal Palace, which may not mean as much as that record-low number of touches might purport to claim, but it is certainly reflective of the team’s attacking struggles in that game, and attacking struggles in general this season.
But whether the blame rests (more) on Lukaku’s shoulders than his teammates or his coaches, the solution to this issue has to involve all of them. And that also means that we support and protect each other.
“We have to deal with it, the data is out there and speaks a certain language. He was not involved in our game, it’s sometimes like this with strikers. If they struggle a bit with self-confidence, if they struggle a little bit to find the space and to get involved against a defensive side, it can be like this.
“It’s of course not what we want and not what Romelu wants, but it’s also not the time to laugh about him, make jokes about him. He’s in the spotlight of course, and we will protect him.”
We’ve averaged exactly two goals per game this season (82 in 41: 2.0), in all competitions. We’re averaging slightly less in games that Lukaku has started (53 in 28), and slightly more in games where he was subbed on (14 in 6) or in which he didn’t feature at all (29 in 13). That’s highly cursory analysis that does not account for any pertinent factor, but the feeling has lingered for most of the season that Chelsea are not nearly as dynamic as last season.
Then again, under Tuchel, we averaged barely a goal per game last year (just 38 in the 30 games in all competitions), so it’s not like we have some lofty total to match. Tuchel’s stated intent was to make us hard to beat, which he did indeed accomplish, and continues to accomplish.
Of course, spending a club record amount of a striker was intended to solve those goalscoring issues. But it turns out that it’s not that simple or easy, and has yet to happen, certainly not consistently. And so, the search for solutions continues — with Romelu of course.
“[We] can also play and win games without any player, this is our job and what we want to do. This is what we try honestly when we have injuries or corona cases. It’s on us and me to adapt and find solutions. Romelu will always be part of the solution.
“[We] are a physical team with a certain attitude and a grip on playing competitive football. We demand a lot from our strikers in terms of defending. We want to be a physical, hard-working group that’s not shy to make it a physical game and not only a skillful game. That plays maybe a part.
“We have many games throughout our year together where we create many chances and struggle to convert them. Now, in the moment, there’s a time when we struggle to create too many big chances for our strikers. I think this is a normal in a period of the season.
“We are aware of the subject and like always in football, it is not always just one reason to solve the problem. It is a very complex sport and we try to keep on playing with faith and belief in what we do with our team and make the effort. From there we go.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.London
I suppose the question is how big and what sort of a role will he (continue to) play in this eventual solution. Probably a pretty big one, one way or another.
Onwards and upwards!