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How Lukaku will impact Tuchel’s tactical plans for Chelsea


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hat does £97.5million buy you?

That was the overriding motivation for Chelsea to break their club record for Romelu Lukaku and bring back the player they allowed to leave for around £70m less seven years ago.

But Thomas Tuchel expects much more than just the finishing touch from the Belgium international when he potentially makes his debut against Arsenal a week on Sunday.

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Add to them Harry Kane and Sergio Aguero.

When Fiorentina’s Dusan Vlahovic was floated as an alternative, Tuchel was adamant about the market Chelsea needed to be shopping in if he was to turn them into genuine title challengers.

So while Haaland may have been the first choice, Lukaku certainly fit the profile with his physical presence, speed, finishing and, as a bonus, his experience of the Premier League.

Tuchel expects an instant impact from Lukaku, which could be crucial in the opening weeks of a campaign when players returning from the Euros and Copa America are still getting up to speed.

He also believes the 28-year-old offers Chelsea a new dimension that neither Olivier Giroud nor Tammy Abraham could.

An inability to get the balance right in attack was an overriding characteristic of Tuchel’s first four months in the job at Chelsea.

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It was not that he did not want to play with an orthodox No9; it was that he could not get a tune out of the options at his disposal.

His determination to sign a centre forward suggests he believes that was down to personnel, and not the system.

Both Giroud and Abraham looked lost on rare occasions they were chosen to lead the attack – starved of service and struggling to get involved in the game.

They were neither effective dropping deep, nor in providing a target in the box. The decision to utilise Kai Havertz as first a false and then orthodox No9 underlined Tuchel’s frustration.

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Chelsea managed just 25 goals in 19 Premier League games under Tuchel.

Even playing the majority of the campaign without a striker, Pep Guardiola’s champions scored 83 goals compared to Chelsea’s 58 in total. In the three previous seasons City scored 102, 95 and 106 respectively – demonstrating the type of return required to be champions.

Tuchel expects Lukaku to allow Chelsea to alter their style when required, giving them the opportunity to go direct with his strength in the air and hold-up play.

Crucially, he believes their former academy starlet is ideal for Chelsea and capable of emulating previous title-winning centre forwards at the club.

He said: “Before I even entered the club and had the chance to be part of it I thought of personalities up front of a certain category of striker like Didier Drogba, like Diego Costa, that for me embodies Chelsea and what Chelsea stands for.

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“He is a true number nine, he is like for me a number nine that I always from outside see in a Chelsea shirt and I see Chelsea with strong strikers and strong personalities, physical strikers.

“The League demands it. Since I worked here I understand why there are so many physical strikers so needed and so successful. For me it’s a perfect fit for Chelsea, this kind of player up front.

“He is happy to take responsibility, he has matured, he has played abroad, he has had success at various big clubs. He will take weight off the shoulders from our younger strikers, from our younger players around him, and I think this is a huge part of the story, that he does not step away and is also happy to make life easier for players around him. I think these players like Christian (Pulisic), like Kai, like Timo (Werner), they will benefit from him.”

Tuchel added: “We were looking for a certain profile and Romelu feels confident to play physical, to play with back to goal, also very strong in using his pace so this will always be a key figure in our game.

“We want to be strong in ball wins and offensive transition, this is what the league demands and what we demand of ourselves. We don’t want to be only a ball possession team or only a defensive team, long balls, but the feeling is that Romelu’s strengths will give us a new power when we cross from the side.

“I don’t think we have to change too much our style of play. He has charisma, a good age now, a leader and hopefully he will be a leader in our group.”

Lukaku endured a difficult end to his time at Manchester United before establishing himself as one of the best strikers in the world at Inter Milan.

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Tuchel believes have landed a player who deserves to be considered in the elite among Kane, Lewandowski and Haaland.

He added: “If you say he’s not in the same spotlight maybe as other famous and successful strikers, I’m not so sure if it’s like this. If it’s like this I think it’s the best to simply accept it and don’t worry about it, because the data is that he delivers in the last years.

“The career that he had and the titles that he won, for example, the responsibility he took on his shoulders at Inter to lift the team and to make it possible to win a major trophy after nine years of Juventus, this speaks for him and for itself.

“I think he does not worry about ‘am I in the same light as others?’ He is in the spotlight because he likes it, because he is good, because he has the personality, and he is happy to carry responsibility.

“This was pretty much what we were looking for and he matches this profile to almost 100 per cent and that’s why we took the chance.

“And he is a Chelsea boy, he knows the club very well, so we hope that he can shine like he is used to and it’s now on us to make him feel welcome and produce the environment where he can do what he does, and that’s scoring.”


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