Thomas Tuchel can avoid Romelu Lukaku Man City error by trusting Chelsea’s £90m undroppable gem – Daniel Childs
If you have scanned social media chatter ahead of Chelsea’s blockbuster clash with Manchester City at The Etihad on Saturday, most of it revolves around Romelu Lukaku featuring or not.
You cannot help but avoid the controversy of his Sky Italia interview, which Thomas Tuchel may have cooly managed. Still, you will infect a lot of the feeling towards the Belgian for the foreseeable future.
Most of the discussion revolves around Chelsea’s record-breaking signing being benched for Kai Havertz, who suits Tuchel’s likely more defensive approach and intense pressing game, something the Belgian’s skill set does not provide nearly the same level.
A lot of this also relates to the clash in September where Chelsea could not repel Pep Guardiola’s men at Stamford Bridge.
City pinned the home side into their own half for extensive periods, limiting Chelsea to their lowest xG of the season of 0.19, lower than when they were reduced to 10 men for 45 minutes at Anfield in August.
“My approach was the wrong approach. It made us too passive and defensive. It wasn’t meant like this, but it turned out like this. So lesson learned.” was Tuchel’s admission during Friday’s press conference.
Tuchel knows he cannot allow a similarly blunt performance if they have any hope of reviving a title race that is in serious danger of evaporating before Spring hits.
Havertz started as the nine in Chelsea’s Champions League final victory back in May, gilding behind City’s defence to score arguably Chelsea’s second most-iconic goal of all time.
Because the 3-5-2 with Lukaku against Man City didn’t work, reverting to the personnel that orchestrated the glory of Porto should be repeated is the conclusion some have come to.
This still isn’t the easiest solution, given that it was not only Havertz influence that defined that final but also the performances of Ben Chilwell and Reece James, both currently injured.
Goalkeeper Edouard Mendy is currently at AFCON with Senegal, and Tuchel confirmed Andreas Christensen, who performed superbly from the bench in Porto, will be out after a positive COVID test.
There is also the reality that Havertz’s form has been unimpressive so far this season, only netting two league goals in 15 appearances.
For all of Lukaku’s critics, the Belgian has scored five league goals from eight shots on target this season via Squawka.
But whether Tuchel chooses Lukaku or Havertz, the biggest miss in September was Mason Mount, who missed through injury.
The English midfielder was the man who played the pass for Havertz to finish in the Champions League final and caused Guardiola similar havoc in the FA Cup Semi-Final, combining with Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech to score the winner.
Mount’s value to Chelsea only continues to grow. A recent report from the CIES Football Observatory ranked him 14th in the highest estimated transfer values across the top five European leagues.
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In the report, Mount is valued at £90m, and his goal output this season has only gone up for Tuchel, finding the back of the net in the Premier League 0.46 per 90 compared to 0.17 last term.
That is further demonstrated from his shots inside the box increasing from 1.1 per 90 in 2020/21 to 1.8 in 2021/22 according to WhoScored.
His underlying creative numbers have remained impressive, which still makes him such an irreplaceable cog in the fluidity of Chelsea’s overall play.
Even if his performance against Spurs last Wednesday slightly dipped, his corner created the winning goal for Antonio Rudiger.
It would be puzzling for Tuchel to not field Mount in whatever attacking combination he chooses in Manchester for a massive game. The academy graduate should remain a constant in the German’s strongest lineup.
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