Admittedly, that’s a slightly reductive headline, but it amused me when I thought of it, so we’re going with it. And in all honesty, it’s perhaps not nearly as far from the harsh truth as we’d like it to be. Fire up the hot takes!
While it’s safe to say that neither Timo Werner (10g, 5a) nor Romelu Lukaku (12g, 2a) have lived up to their reputations, price tags, or expectations since joining (or re-joining) Chelsea, it’s Lukaku who seems to be at the very bottom of the pecking order at the moment as Werner continues to make the most (well, more) of his opportunities. The two-legged Champions League quarterfinal against Real Madrid reflected this situation in no uncertain terms, with Lukaku missing a big, potentially tie-changing chance in the first leg and Werner completing the comeback and briefly giving Chelsea the lead on aggregate late on in the second.
Judging strikers purely on goals is also reductive of course, but scoring goals is better than not scoring goals even in the age of fancy stats and data analysis — especially when it comes to the biggest stage and the biggest moments.
Goals change games. They’re a relatively rare occurrence given the length of a standard football match, which amplifies their importance and, in turn, amplifies the importance of those who can deliver in the most crucial moments. Werner did, Lukaku didn’t. We should all try to be more like Werner, as strange as that may sound for a striker who’s got a litany of increasingly hilarious and unbelievable misses (including a hat-trick of woodworks just the other day!). Then again, Werner’s attitude and work-rate have remained exemplary throughout and those are also qualities others should look to emulate.
“[Lukaku] had a huge chance against Real Madrid and things can go so fast. Nobody knows what this goal would have done for us if he had taken his chance with the late header in the first leg.
“It is exactly what he needs to do. Wait, be patient, work hard and put the team first, be ready to help the team, because as a striker you can help within seconds. Especially for strikers, things can be turned around in minutes, in moments. Whole careers can be upside down and in any direction but always as a striker you can have a chance to put things into your favour, as a substitute or if you have the chance to perform from the beginning.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Guardian
It’s perhaps a bit unfair on Lukaku since he was injured for the second leg. We certainly could’ve used him as a late substitute or in extra-time to try to win the tie. Alas, the fates conspired against our Prodigal Son.