Romelu Lukaku is going through a tough time at Chelsea right now.
The Belgian striker re-joined the Blues for £97m in this summer having just powered Inter to win Serie A for the first time in over a decade, and after mangling Arsenal on his debut the hype for what he could bring to Chelsea was off the scale.
However that August massacre was about as good as it got for Lukaku in a Chelsea shirt, and things have fallen apart to the extent that whenever they get around to playing their return fixture against Arsenal, Lukaku probably wouldn’t make the team.
And to make matters worse the greatest striker in Premier League history, who just so happens to be an Arsenal legend, has now questioned his entire move to Stamford Bridge in the first place.
“Why did you go and get him?” asked Thierry Henry following Chelsea’s late 0-1 win over Crystal Palace, a match where Lukaku played all 90 minutes and recorded just 7 touches.
“As a coach when you go and get Lukaku, you will have to make him adapt to how you play, or you change your way to suit him,” Henry, who has coached Lukaku for the Belgian national team and remains a friend of the striker, continued.
“For Rom to adapt to the way Chelsea play, it takes time, it’s not an easy one,” said the Frenchman, clearly baffled that Chelsea haven’t adapted to play to Lukaku’s strengths. “Is it normal that he only has seven touches? No, that’s also not normal, regardless if the coach likes you or not. That shouldn’t happen.”
Henry pointed to the tactical problem that is likely behind Lukaku’s underperformance, saying: “[Chelsea] like to press, to be active and to change the front three. [Lukaku] likes to stay in the middle so it makes it very difficult for him to adapt to the situation.”
Lukaku didn’t play a single second of Chelsea’s Champions League win over Lille midweek, and despite picking up two injuries during the game Chelsea put in a cohesive performance that completely overwhelmed the French side.
Without Lukaku in the team, Kai Havertz put in a fluid display at the head of attack with Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech either side of him. This constant movement into channels caused no end of trouble and seemed to enable Chelsea’s midfielders to be at their best too.
The question now becomes: does Lukaku get back into the side for the EFL Cup final against Liverpool this weekend? Ziyech’s injury does create a potential opening for the Belgian, but his form has been so poor and Chelsea looked so bright without him that you have to wonder if Thomas Tuchel wouldn’t rather find a different solution than once again try and fit a square peg into a round hole.
For his part, Thierry Henry is just as stumped: “they need to move forward on that but it’s a tough one to read. I’ll be honest with you, I don’t know how that happens in 90 minutes. But what’s the solution?”