With Romelu Lukaku set to return to Inter Milan, why can’t Chelsea find a reliable striker?

Perhaps Thomas Tuchel noticed the writing on the wall when, in February, he admitted: “There is a history of strikers struggling a little bit at Chelsea. It may not be the easiest place in the world for strikers.”

Tuchel’s feedback got here within the wake of Romelu Lukaku’s notorious efficiency at Crystal Palace which noticed him contact the ball simply seven occasions. It was one other two months till the striker was handed one other Premier League begin.

“I don’t know why it’s like this,” Tuchel added. “In my opinion, Chelsea are a team considered a strong defensive team, a physical team, that has a certain attitude when in competitive football.”

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Four months after the top coach’s confession, Lukaku – the striker signed for a club-record £97.5m from Inter Milan simply 11 months in the past – is set to return to Serie A after including his identify to the record of goalscorers which have struggled to make their mark at Stamford Bridge.

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Chelsea’s Romelu Lukaku set a new Premier League report for the fewest touches from a participant who’s performed a full 90 minutes since Opta started recording in 2003/04. The striker solely managed seven touches within the 1-0 victory at Crystal Palace

The 29-year-old arrived as some of the feared strikers in world soccer after scoring 64 objectives in 95 video games throughout two seasons with Inter, the second of which noticed the membership declare their first Serie A title in 11 seasons.

But he seems to be like leaving west London after discovering the web simply 15 occasions throughout the 2021/22 marketing campaign, whereas he courted controversy along with his unsanctioned interview with Sky in Italy in December through which he questioned Tuchel’s techniques and expressed a want to return to Milan.

Hopes have been excessive that Lukaku, who first joined Chelsea as a teenager in 2011 however left in 2014 after failing to break into the primary staff, can be the reply to the Blues’ troubles in entrance of purpose. But it has proved to be an sad reunion for each events.

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Kaveh Solhekol and Dharmesh Sheth talk about whether or not Romelu Lukaku is likely one of the worst Premier League signings ever, because the Chelsea striker is set to return to Inter Milan

Lukaku not the primary to fail dwell up to hype

Perhaps Lukaku can take some solace within the calibre of strikers that additionally failed to meet expectations after making high-profile strikes to Chelsea. Andriy Shevchenko, Fernando Torres and Alvaro Morata all arrived for large charges however struggled to various levels, whereas Radamel Falcao and Gonzalo Higuain endured underwhelming mortgage spells in west London.

In reality, since Didier Drogba – undoubtedly Chelsea’s finest striker over the previous 20 years – left the membership for the ultimate time in the summertime of 2015, solely Diego Costa, who scored 52 Premier League objectives in 89 video games, might declare to have been an unqualified success up entrance for the Blues.

Chelsea’s well-known forwards which have failed to hit the mark

Player Goals Games
Fernando Torres 45 171
Alvaro Morata 24 72
Andriy Shevchenko 22 77
Gonzalo Higuain 5 18
Radamel Falcao 1 12

Tammy Abraham’s complete of 21 objectives in 56 league video games is probably higher than can be anticipated given Tuchel barely used the England striker earlier than he left for Roma, whereas Olivier Giroud’s 17 in 75 doesn’t replicate the worth that he supplied as a goal man.

However, there isn’t any doubt Chelsea have lacked a prolific scorer for a variety of seasons, which is demonstrated by the hardly plausible incontrovertible fact that Eden Hazard’s 28 objectives makes him their highest scorer within the Premier League for the reason that begin of the 2017/18 marketing campaign, regardless that he left the membership three years in the past.

For context, that locations Lukaku’s Belgium team-mate thirty fourth for objectives within the high flight in that point. Over the identical interval, Harry Kane has scored 105 occasions, whereas Mohamed Salah leads the league with 118.

Chelsea’s high Premier League scorers since begin of 2017/18 season

Player Goals Games
Eden Hazard 28 71
Mason Mount 24 105
Tammy Abraham 21 56
Christian Pulisic 19 74
Marcos Alonso 19 123
Jorginho 19 125
Willian 18 104

More objectives, extra passes, extra ball recoveries – the case for Havertz over Lukaku

Kai Havertz ended the season as Thomas Tuchel's most well-liked No 9

While Lukaku’s efficiency in opposition to Crystal Palace could also be seen because the nadir of his second spell at Chelsea, he did have a vibrant (albeit transient) spell again within the facet in May, when he scored three objectives in two video games in opposition to Wolves and Leeds.

However, these promising shows have been adopted by uninspiring outings within the FA Cup remaining in opposition to Liverpool and Leicester within the Premier League, and he spent everything of the final recreation of the season – a 2-1 house win over Watford – warming the bench.

While that February afternoon at Selhurst Park appeared to be a tipping level for Lukaku, it was additionally a turning level for Kai Havertz, who changed the Belgian as Thomas Tuchel’s most well-liked No 9 after that recreation and went on to rating seven objectives in his subsequent 9 video games.

The incontrovertible fact that Havertz grasped his alternative to lead the road was welcome information for Chelsea given the sizeable funding they made in him two years in the past, but it surely offered the issue of what to do with Lukaku.

It rapidly turned clear that having a participant of Lukaku’s undoubted high quality warming the bench for a extended interval was untenable, however the statistics beneath confirmed why Tuchel’s choice for Havertz to lead the road was solely justified.

The Germany worldwide scored extra objectives per 90 minutes within the Premier League than Lukaku, whereas he additionally tried extra pictures and steered extra of them on course.

Havertz’s consolation taking part in in varied positions – he has spent a lot of his profession taking part in both on the wing or behind a important striker – might clarify why he supplied way more within the build-up than Lukaku, as proven by the actual fact he accomplished greater than double the quantity of passes than his team-mate per 90 minutes.

It’s not simply Havertz’s private statistics that justified his inclusion on the expense of Lukaku; because the graphic beneath exhibits, Chelsea carried out higher in a number of metrics – together with objectives, final-third accomplished passes and ball recoveries within the remaining third – when Tuchel performed his countryman as his central striker.

Why did Lukaku fail to find his toes?

Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez (left) shaped a formidable partnership at Inter

Needless to say, Lukaku’s output since returning to Chelsea will not be what the world champions paid all that cash for, and it’s much more stunning when contrasted along with his distinctive performances for Inter two seasons in the past.

Only Cristiano Ronaldo – then of Juventus – scored extra objectives than Lukaku in Serie A within the 2020/21 marketing campaign, however since returning to the Premier League, Belgium’s all-time high scorer has recorded fewer objectives, pictures, touches within the field and assists.

It’s exhausting to make the argument that Chelsea didn’t present sufficient service to their striker. Compared to the Inter facet through which Lukaku thrived, Tuchel’s staff tried extra final-third passes, extra lengthy passes, extra by balls and extra crosses.

One key distinction between the 2 sides, although, is that Lukaku was supported by Lautaro Martinez on the San Siro in Antonio Conte’s most well-liked 3-5-2 formation, whereas he often had two attacking midfielders taking part in behind him when main the road for Chelsea. Inter’s system allowed Lukaku to occupy positions within the center and in the proper channel, whereas he performed a extra central position underneath Tuchel.

But it isn’t as if Tuchel didn’t give Lukaku the chance to play alongside one other striker this season – he did so on a number of events, together with for the go to of Manchester City in September, when the Belgian performed up entrance alongside Timo Werner.

However, Chelsea failed to report a shot on course in a 1-0 house defeat, after which Tuchel mentioned: “We were too deep. There was no connection [with Lukaku] and this was a team problem, not an individual problem.”

Chelsea’s defenders confirmed up forwards in entrance of purpose

Only Arsenal's Gabriel Magalhaes scored as many occasions as Reece James (proper) from defence within the Premier League final season

But whereas the statistics make grim studying for Lukaku, it is maybe harsh to single him out as an underperforming ahead in Chelsea’s staff. In reality, there’s an argument to say most of the Blues’ attacking gamers should not pulling their weight in entrance of purpose, which matches a great distance to explaining why Tuchel is eager to signal Raheem Sterling – who has extra objectives and assists within the Premier League than any Chelsea participant within the final 5 seasons – this summer season.

Mason Mount was the one member of Tuchel’s squad to attain double figures within the Premier League final season, whereas none of Timo Werner, Christian Pulisic, Hakim Ziyech or Callum Hudson-Odoi scored greater than six occasions within the high flight. Chelsea’s forwards have been even proven up Conor Gallagher, whose eight objectives from midfield for Crystal Palace matched the totals achieved by Lukaku and Havertz.

Conor Gallagher impressed on mortgage at Crystal Palace final season and is set to return to Chelsea

But however, Chelsea had a outstanding knack of discovering objectives from different areas – notably defence. Reece James was the joint-highest-scoring defender within the Premier League with 5 objectives, whereas Chelsea’s defenders as a group mixed to rating 22 occasions – only one fewer than Norwich’s complete staff managed in 38 matches.

Another issue maybe hampering Chelsea’s forwards has been the truth that the membership have had 4 head coaches within the final 5 seasons, every of which have introduced their very own techniques, preferences and calls for. This undoubtedly makes it tougher for gamers to be assured of getting a common spot within the staff, whereas it additionally creates fewer alternatives for gamers to get snug with one another in a explicit system.

Of the highest 5 scorers over the previous 5 Premier League seasons, three – Mohamed Salah, Raheem Sterling and Sadio Mane – have performed underneath only one supervisor your complete time, whereas the opposite two – Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy – have been nearly assured to begin as No 9s no matter who has been within the dugout.

But with the arrival of Todd Boehly as proprietor, in addition to the pursuit of Sterling and the willingness to transfer on from Lukaku, it seems as if Chelsea are backing Tuchel to stay in cost for the long run. In doing so, the Blues will hope he can construct a staff able to supporting a striker that may finish their goalscoring points.

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