Romelu Lukaku made his debut for Chelsea against Arsenal in the London Derby and helped to lead his new team to victory, in dominant style. Let us look at how he helped Chelsea and performed at the Emirates.
Tuchel started with his trademark 3-4-2-1 formation but the noticeable change was the inclusion of Romelu Lukaku. Making his debut after signing from Inter Milan, all eyes were on Lukaku as he started his 2nd stint with The Blues. Chelsea won the London Derby comfortably by scoring two goals and conceding none.
Reece James was the star of the match with an assist and a goal, the assist was for none other than Lukaku. Let us look at how the inclusion of Romelu Lukaku changed Chelsea’s tactics and led to a comfortable victory at Emirates.
How Chelsea setup with Lukaku
There were many doubts on where Lukaku will play in the attack and who’s place will he take. The most common answer to who he replaces was Timo Werner and when Tuchel released his playing 11, Werner was on bench. Kai Havertz and Mason Mount started on the left and right side respectively of Lukaku. With N’Golo Kante recovering from, Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho started in the midfield. Marcos Alonso kept his place in the 11 with some good performances, alongside James on right.
Cesar Azpilicueta returned to back three on the right side. Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen were the other two defenders, Thiago Silva still getting match ready. Trevoh Chalobah was rested after a dream debut against Crystal Palace. Lukaku’s presence at front alone was enough to strike fear into Arsenal defenders. Throughout the match we could see how he dominated the two Arsenal centre backs physically and with his speed.
Tactics change up up front and midfield
Generally with Timo Werner as the centre of attack, Kai Havertz used to play as a false 9 and make runs behind the defence. Werner and Havertz would rotate their positions at times with one of them on the left side helping Alonso or Chilwell. As a result there was never really a centre figure to play the ball to in attack. Werner also dropping in to help the team but with Lukaku that was not the case.
Since the whistle blew, it was clear Lukaku will be that centre piece for Chelsea in attack. Havertz and Mount helping him from the midfield. Lukaku was not dropping back which meant a constant pressure on the Arsenal defenders. So in attack Chelsea played with one proper number 9 and two supporting players in Mount and Havertz.
In the middle of the park it was a different story from what we see from Tuchel’s Chelsea. As Lukaku kept the two Arsenal centre backs busy, Alonso and Reece James were getting forward from the sides. This allowed much more space and time for Havertz and Mount in midfield. This was clearly visible as Havertz was receiving ball in open spaces on the left side and playing those long crosses to Mount or James on the far side. Mount was in a bit more advanced role allowing Jorginho more freedom.
On many occasions in the first half Marcos Alonso and Reece James were seen making runs into the box, the extra man with Lukaku. As for Lukaku, the way he kept the defenders occupied and making those darting runs behind them was amazing to see. Not picked most of the time but with time that will change. This ability of his to hold off the defenders and speed played key role in both the goals.
Lukaku’s role in both Chelsea goals
Romelu Lukaku made an instant impact on his debut. Scoring the first goal of the London Derby in just 15 minutes and a huge part in second. Let’s start off with the first goal, Lukaku received the ball a bit far from the penalty box but was able to drag PabloMari, Arsenal defender, out of his place. He held Mari off and played the ball back to Kovacic, who spotted the run of Reece James on the far right. Played a beautiful ball to James who darted into the box with the ball and finally squared it to Lukaku for a simple tap-in.
Two things were important in the first goal. As Lukaku dragged Mari out of position, Mount saw the space and made a run behind him. To track Mount, Kieran Tierney tracked him leaving space behind him for Reece James to run leading to the goal. The 2nd important thing to notice was the strength, speed and awareness of Lukaku. After Kovacic played the ball to James, Lukaku without thinking twice made a run into the box shrugging off Mari. He got behind Leno and eventually scored the goal.
In the second goal Lukaku was not directly involved but was important in the build-up. Kai Havertz and Marcos Alonso did an excellent job on the left side. Alonso then played a grounded pass towards Mount who was on the right side. It was Lukaku who left the ball confusing Xhaka who slid in to stop him. This left Mount wide open, played a nice ball to James who finished it into the top corner making it 2-0. It was clear from the match that Lukaku will play an important role this season, let us see how he affects the other players.
More rfeedom for midfielders with Lukaku on the pitch
As talked earlier Lukaku’s presence up front allowed more freedom to two players especially, Havertz and Mount. Both of them are good players of the ball, they are most effective with ball on their feet. This is not the case when Timo Werner plays as Havertz is expected to make runs behind defense, which we hardly saw him do against Arsenal.
Kai Havertz and Mason Mount dropping in midfield and having more of the ball allows the full backs to run behind and play as wingers. After Ziyech was brought on we saw him play more wide compared to Mount and Chelsea making it a midfield of four. Towards the end Werner came on to replace Havertz, even though their weren’t any major changes and time was also not there. Both Lukaku and Werner could be seen playing side by side, a sort off front two.
Romelu Lukaku addition was always going to strengthen Chelsea upfront. Against Arsenal it was an easy match but next week will be the one to lookout for. The match against Liverpool who seem to have found their form will be an interesting and exciting watch for the fans.
Written by Suryansh Somvanshi (@suryanshsomvans)
Edited by Tom Coley (@tomcoley49)