It is definitely safe to say that Romelu Lukaku’s time at Chelsea has been underwhelming at best and not only his goal scoring has been sub-par but it is his general play that is the most worrying. Everyone has seen the graphic about Lukaku having just 7 touches vs Crystal Palace and it is alarming for him as an individual player and the team itself. Countless times you will see our attackers look up directly at Lukaku when he is in a position to receive it and just turn out and play sideways or backwards. If you focus solely on Lukaku throughout a match, he does often raise his hand indicating he wants the ball and will usually follow this with a slight run in behind before the player with the ball does the aforementioned turn out and play elsewhere. This then results in the classic Lukaku sulk that usually sees him just standing offside for at least a few seconds as he trots back towards the last defender.
In recent weeks our centre-backs have begun following this trend of not playing the ball to Lukaku when he is a favourable option. Below is a kind of example that I speak of. If you don’t go to games you unfortunately don’t have the ability to see most of the actions Lukaku does but trust me, he does actually make smart runs and clearly indicates when he wants the ball.
Obviously I have no inkling as to what passes and patterns of play that our centre-backs are stipulated to play but it really looks like they avoid playing passes to our front players religiously. This snapshot was taken in the 7th minute and I do understand the famous tactic of keep it simple for the first 10 or so. However, in a stalemate game like this one as it was for so long, you have to make a few risks here and there. Rudiger is a man that lives by calculated risks, the infamous Rudiger run that opens up passing lanes and space and his long shots from outside the box are synonymous with his play style. I would love for Rudiger to try more chipped balls in behind the defence and passes into Lukaku’s feet as he attempts to hold it up.
One of the main issues with our centre-backs playing passes in behind is the low-block style that nearly every team implements when we play them. Chelsea’s main nemesis this year has been teams we should wipe the floor with, implementing a low-block that stifles our attack. If I was an opposition manager setting up in a low-block 4-4-2 or 5-4-1 would be an easy option and many managers in the League have thought this way also. The low-block system limits the space in behind and makes the game more centrally. Meaning no space in behind for runs and more players centrally in the way between Rudiger, Silva or Christensen getting the ball into the feet of Lukaku.
The picture above is a perfect example of where a calculated risk should be taken by Rudiger. Toni is certainly skilled enough to attempt this pass and pull it off and I feel that more risks taken like this will greatly increase our chances to score.
In games like the Crystal Palace one, the time the centre-backs have on the ball is heavily evident and I would love to see the statistics on how much time our centre-backs are actually in possession of the ball. A few more risks sprinkled into the style of Rudiger and Christensen would be ideal.
Havertz and Lukaku utilised together upfront is an option that has become available in the last few games for Tuchel and having a bigger man to make runs off of could elevate Havertz to an even further level. Havertz is the first choice number 9 for Chelsea at the moment and in the game vs Burnley we could see a few more longer range passes coming into play. Burnley played with a higher line than usual and especially in the first half looked to go toe-to-toe with Chelsea. Lukaku could have had a field day in behind that defence but has a long way to go before solidifying his place over an in-form Kai Havertz.
Written by Frankie