Sunday, June 26, 2022

Thomas Tuchel must address £ 34m Romelu Lukaku criticism to disprove Chelsea theory

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“We do everything to help him. This is absolutely the wrong question. It is not about one player. It is a team sport. It is not about ten players serving one player. This is not Chelsea. This is not football”.

Thomas Tuchel’s statement in January following Romelu Lukaku’s now defining interview was, in reflection, the beginning of the end of the Belgian’s time at Stamford Bridge. Whilst we await the striker’s next chat with Italian media on his return to the San Siro, Tuchel’s words reflected a view that supporters rallied behind.

It was about a collective over the individual and the theory that the underperforming Lukaku needed to adapt to Tuchel’s Chelsea rather than the other way around.

READ MORE:The interview, fans booing, Thomas Tuchel system –What went wrong for Romelu Lukaku at Chelsea

Lukaku clearly did not appreciate this, which emphasized his clear desire to return to the club he was bought from last August. The fallout is disastrous, not only for Lukaku but for Chelsea.

Already you will see Lukaku’s return to west London labelled as the worst transfer of all time, and when you consider the hype and the £ 97m fee, it is hard to argue against it.

But the responsibility for this failure cannot just fall on Lukaku’s shoulders. Eyes should point to Tuchel, his inability to get the best out of a prime center-forward who, for whatever previous criticisms, had consistently scored goals wherever he had been.

Lukaku’s final tally of 15 goals in 2021/22 was not close to what was expected but still made him the Blues top scorer in all competitions.

The awkward questions many rightfully supportive of Tuchel do not want to address is the structural attacking issues that were present before Lukaku arrived and could remain heading into next season. There also is his track record with “traditional strikers”, which does not reflect greatly.

As much discussion will focus on Lukaku, the fallout and complete exclusion of Tammy Abraham after he was appointed remains a completely bizarre affair that effectively forced the English striker out of the club. Once that happened, Lukaku and Tuchel needed to vindicate that call.

Abraham was Chelsea’s top scorer in 2019/20 and was on course to do so again, ending joint-top with Timo Werner with 12 at the end of 2020/21 despite being an outcast for four months, gaining under 20 minutes of league football after February of that year.

Abraham went to Roma in a £ 34m deal and continued to do what he has since his academy days, score goals. Whilst back in London, Chelsea’s attacking issues only grew with over £ 300m worth of talent.

For those that condemned Abraham for “not being good enough,” it hardly reflects well on the rest of Chelsea’s current attack that none have been able to match his tally of 18 from the 2019/20 campaign since.

Tuchel has got his wish, Lukaku is out, and reinforcements are likely to come via the help of interim sporting director Todd Boehly. But without an easy target to pin all frustration like Lukaku present, where will the blame lie should the attacking shortcomings continue?

The jury is still out over over whether Tuchel can formulate a productive attack that not only is better in front of goal but can compete with the frequent creativity seen at Manchester City and Liverpool.

The longer this issue is not resolved next season, the worse the Abraham sale and Lukaku saga will look on the German, even if in the case of Lukaku, the situation is clearly more nuanced.

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