Romelu Lukaku’s performance against Manchester City is simply not good enough


Thomas Tuchel is an animated character on the side of most matches. Still, even for a manager who once sweated through a baby blue puffer jacket, Chelsea’s coach surpassed himself on Saturday afternoon.

Barely bound by the boundaries of his technical field, Tuchel seemed on the verge of getting a vein when he slyly saw his team slip 13 points behind the volatile league leaders Manchester City with a 1-0 loss to the Etihad.

The repeated focus from much of the anger surrounding Chelsea in recent months has fallen on Romelu Lukaku’s broad shoulders.

In a match that was sparsely packed with clear chances for both teams – such is the contrasting style but the corresponding quality of each side’s defense – Lukaku was presented with, and wasted, Chelsea’s best openings.

Within the first ten minutes, Lukaku threatened to take advantage of Pep Guardiola’s decision to leave Ruben Dias on the bench. Chelsea’s number nine threw John Stones to the lawn with a twist of the hips and made a rare inning on City’s defensive third. But when he faced a goal, he tried to find an offside Hakim Ziyech.

Lukaku was similarly reluctant to press the trigger in the initial exchange of Chelsea’s Carabao Cup semi-final first match at home against Tottenham in early January, breaking outside Spurs’ back line but playing a pass behind Kai Havertz at the time.

Chelsea failed to register a single shot in the first half against City, but offered a certain threat at the break only to be repeatedly let down by the last, poorly weighted pass.

0 – Chelsea failed with a shot in the first half at the Etihad; the first time they have failed in a Premier League match under Thomas Tuchel, and the first time in total since May 2018 against Newcastle. Protected.

– OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 15, 2022

Tuchel took his rage and frustration with him in the post-match interview and told BT Sport: “We had eight or nine offensive passes and we had zero touch in the box – it was a big problem today, offensively. The performance of the front players was simply a lack of precision, a lack of timing and a lack of calm.

“You can not believe that you get many chances, deliveries, at a level like this. We lost too many balls too easily and that is why we have a number like this. [zero touches in City’s box]. Of course, that was a big problem in our game today. “

Chelsea’s coach flew off the chair and hit the air with unadulterated anger 13 minutes into the competition. Ziyech was the source of this outburst of anger, delivering a lead-footed pass that tossed several yards ahead of Lukaku, gagging after a ball slid into the acres of space behind City’s backline following Chelsea’s complicated build-up.

Of course, the first defense revolves around when Lukaku comes in for criticism about the lack of support from his teammates. While Ziyech and a painfully anonymous Christian Pulisic were equally guilty of Chelsea’s lack of leadership, Lukaku’s manager had apparently had enough of this very argument.

“Sometimes he needs to do the job,” Tuchel countered. “I think he is included in this. He had many ball losses without any pressure, and many ball losses under very promising circumstances. He had a huge chance so he is in this.

“Of course we want to serve him, but he is part of the team and the performance up front – especially in the first half – where, where …” Tuchel trailed. “We can do much, much better and we have to do much better because we had a lot of chances in the first half already.”

Mateo Kovacic was one of the rare occasions when a teammate broke through City’s controlled structure, hurried into a loose ball in midfield and jumped past Rodri. Lukaku hurried into the pass but got his intentions perfectly predicted by Ederson who saved Chelsea’s biggest chance of the match shortly after the break.

Man City 1-0 Chelsea

12 wins in a row13 points clear1 goals from 0.9 xGCity knows how to win PL titles

– The Analyst (@OptaAnalyst) January 15, 2022

No player who started the match had fewer touches than Lukaku’s pitiful 21. Although many strikers thrive on some interaction in the build-up, Lukaku was such a threat at Inter – where he was voted up to Serie A’s MVP as Nerazzurri claimed last season’s Scudetto – when he picked up the ball deep and drove towards goal.

Exposed as the central striker in an overwhelming third, it is telling that Tuchel highlighted Lukaku’s many “ball losses” as a major weakness on Saturday. Despite his bulky physique, Lukaku has rarely shown any fluency when he has been instructed to play predominantly with his back to goal.

The Belgian was hardly the only guilty figure in a defeat that effectively ends Chelsea’s title chances, but if Tuchel constantly demands a type of player like Lukaku has never had much success, everyone will remain thoroughly frustrated.

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