OPINION: Thomas Tuchel needs to change this if he wants to get the best out of Romelu Lukaku at Chelsea

When Romelu Lukaku signed for Chelsea, the feeling was that he was the missing piece. The ’last piece to the jigsaw’. Around 20 goals in the Premier League this season is what many thought we’d get after he got his career back on track at Inter Milan under Antonio Conte.

Many people thought he’d be the player to help take us to the Premier League title. While it hasn’t worked out so far for the player, it must be acknowledged that this is due to various factors, not just one sole reason. One of which, being the tactical shape of the 3-4-3/3-4-2-1 which sees the Belgian play as a lone striker.

Lukaku out of Liverpool clash after controversial media interview. Image courtesy of Getty Images
Lukaku out of Liverpool clash after controversial media interview. Image courtesy of Getty Images

Tactical style

The 3-4-3 system requires the lone striker to have a good level of technical ability and ball retention. Lukaku doesn’t offer that. Against Brighton at home in particular, he was often isolated with the ball with any support around him which isn’t ideal for a striker Lukaku who doesn’t have great ball retention. This led to him losing the ball many times.

We saw him play alongside Timo Werner in the Champions League against Zenit away and both the strikers scored. Considering what Lukaku does and doesn’t offer, he’s a striker that would be much more suited to a formation consisting of a striker partnership as this means Lukaku would have close support around him, making it easier for him as he can just play it off and make runs in behind.

To be dangerous as a lone striker, Lukaku would have to improve in his technical ability and ball retention. A lone striker needs to have good chemistry and understanding with the wingers in being able to link up and interchange. But Lukaku improving in his preciseness of passing and ball retention isn’t a guarantee. The Belgian is 28-years of age. He is the finished article and is unlikely to improve quickly in those areas.

Lukaku and Werner up top would benefit both players a lot, as Timo Werner has also proven to be much more of a threat when playing alongside a striker.

Looking back at his time at Inter, Conte played him alongside Lautaro Martinez, which was successful as both strikers had the chemistry and with Martinez’s quality on and off the ball, this meant Lukaku was able to rely a lot less on his own ability to create chances.

Injuries to Reece James and Ben Chilwell have hampered Lukaku

The injuries to key players have also been a huge miss. Not just for the goal threat they both pose, but also for Lukaku as he needs service. Every striker needs service and we all know the quality Chilwell and James possess in crossing positions. Since the injuries to both, we’ve seen Lukaku have to rely on Alonso and Azpilicueta for service and that isn’t really promising.

In modern football at the highest level, you need creativity and service from the fullbacks/wingbacks. But that is something both Alonso and Azpilicueta lack. This makes Lukaku’s job even harder. A lone striker that feeds off service but only getting one or two chances per game isn’t really going to work.

Lack of quality out wide means creativity has to come through the middle of the pitch but Chelsea only really have Kovacic who is a creative outlet in midfield. Lukaku’s having to create for himself at times which he shouldn’t have to do.

What would be the best possible solution for Lukaku

You look at last season when Chelsea had Kai Havertz playing as false 9, interchanging with the wingers. The chemistry was there. The connection was there but the clinical touch wasn’t. Now that we’ve got Lukaku in, our attack is struggling to score and lacks any real chemistry.

£97m on Lukaku is a big deal. Of course, he himself can do better. He can be more mobile, counter-press more urgently and put more effort in winning aerial duels but we shouldn’t be having to ask him do what isn’t part of his game.

I personally think we should play him in a partnership alongside Havertz/Werner. It would mean he’d be less involved in build up play and a lot more focused on getting high up the pitch and scoring goals.

3-4-1-2 could work very with Werner and Lukaku up top and Havertz behind as a 10. I just don’t see him cutting it as a lone striker. He needs players close to him to help progress in tight spaces.

Written by Vikram Jujuah (@CFCVik)

Edited by Tom Coley (@tomcoley49)

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