Romelu Lukaku has introduced his return to Chelsea with 4 targets in as many video games. How can Tottenham cease the Blues’ ‘foremost man’ including one other this weekend?
Lukaku was labelled the ‘full striker’ by Sky Sports activities’ Graeme Souness following his double in a 3-0 win over Aston Villa final Saturday, and has hit the bottom operating on his Premier League return after netting 47 Serie A targets throughout the final two seasons with Inter Milan.
He is seemed the lacking piece of the puzzle for Thomas Tuchel’s Champions League winners, who scored solely 25 instances within the German’s 19 league video games in cost final season, and owed their improved outcomes nearly completely to a shored-up backline which conceded simply 15 targets in that point whereas holding 11 clear sheets.
Lukaku’s arrival has offered a complete new headache for opposition managers. The 28-year-old is a nightmare within the field, is already exceeding his anticipated targets goal and has gained extra duels than nearly anybody else in his first three matches again – all whereas being one in every of Chelsea’s finest creators, too. Tuchel himself has admitted the Blues had “missed” someone of his quality.
“He’s targets,” mentioned Souness. “You have bought somebody who can get you targets out of nothing. I believe he is close to sufficient the whole striker – he is not sensible at something, he is superb at all the things.”
Arsenal’s Pablo Mari was taken to the cleaners when attempting to go toe-to-toe with Lukaku on his debut, however he’s simply as able to punish defenders who give him area, as he confirmed along with his fabulous contact and end for Chelsea’s third in opposition to Villa.
Tottenham boss Nuno Espirito Santo has already bought the higher of 1 powerful opposition in Manchester Metropolis this season – and now how does he go about holding the massive Belgian at bay once they go head to head on Sky Sports Premier League in #GameZero this weekend?
In his last season in Italy Lukaku blew away nearly all comers, scoring 24 targets in 36 video games, however three groups did handle to get a deal with on Inter’s foremost attacking risk. Throughout video games with Hellas Verona, Atalanta and Udinese the striker struggled to maintain maintain of the ball, managed solely a single shot – and most significantly, didn’t rating.
How did they do it? All three sides performed with three-man backlines, permitting them to commit one participant to deal particularly with the striker’s risk with out changing into unbalanced on the again.
In distinction in opposition to Arsenal, who operated with a again 4, Lukaku outmuscled Mari for Chelsea’s opener earlier than dropping deeper for the second, the place Granit Xhaka dedicated and did not deal with him, opening area for Mason Mount to help Reece James’ end. The Gunners struggled to resolve whose accountability it was to take care of Lukaku, and paid the worth.
Nuno is not any stranger to enjoying with a again three, however this weekend particularly may discover it a logistical headache; Japhet Tanganga is suspended, Eric Dier an damage doubt and Cristian Romero is caught in Croatia quarantining till Saturday. Nonetheless, there may be already speak that the Argentine defender could characteristic, and he can draw on his personal efficiency in that Atalanta conflict in March, when his tempo and consciousness gained him 4 of his 5 duels in opposition to Lukaku.
Get tight, minimize off his choices
Atalanta executed arguably the right defensive efficiency in opposition to Lukaku in that recreation on the San Siro. Milan Skriniar did rating the winner with Inter’s solely shot on track from a nook, however in open play their attacking risk was shackled extra successfully than another workforce managed final season – so Spurs could wish to emulate their strategy on Sunday.
Their secret was each personnel and tactic-driven. Berat Djimsiti was given the position of monitoring Lukaku, who typically dropped deep to gather the ball however was by no means given area or time with it. The 6ft 3ins Albanian defender tried to win the primary ball every time but when he could not, he made certain he bought tight to his man.
That hassling and harrying performed a significant half in holding Lukaku uncomfortable, and denied him time to select attacking choices or flip and run on the Atalanta defence. He misplaced possession 26 instances in that match, by far his highest tally of the season.
When it comes to bodily energy, that could be a task which lends itself to 6ft 4ins Joe Rodon, who remains to be shy of Premier League expertise however stepped up after Dier’s damage in opposition to Crystal Palace final weekend, and gained a better proportion of his duels than another Spurs defender final season.
One other tactical element demanded holding males round Lukaku and Djimsiti to counteract the risk from second balls. The ahead created 52 probabilities for others final season, greater than another Inter participant, so denying him the chance to make use of his energy as a goal man to feed his team-mates was essential.
When the ball was performed into Lukaku, Atalanta gamers had been conscious of the threats posed by these round him, and their proactive defending denied him stopped him from making a single probability for his workforce – an actual rarity.
That was the strategy taken by Udinese of their goalless draw with Inter as effectively. As proven above, with Kevin Bonifazi given the job of staying contact tight to the striker, midfielder Walace was conscious to achieve this lay-off earlier than Lautaro Martinez may obtain the ball in what would have been a harmful space. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, a tenacious operator and the Spurs participant who made probably the most recoveries final season, may very well be excellent to fulfil the position.
If you cannot beat him, foul him
There are going to be instances in opposition to a striker as gifted as Lukaku, and a workforce pretty much as good as Chelsea, the place you do not handle to pin him completely, or monitor one in every of their many runners.
The darkish arts can come into play then – in that recreation with Verona, one other the place Lukaku did not register a single shot and accomplished solely seven final-third passes, he was fouled 5 instances, a season excessive. 4 of these got here from centre-back Giangiacomo Magnani, the defender tasked with stopping him by no matter means obligatory.
Tactical fouls aren’t any secret and particularly in opposition to a participant with the explosive energy of Lukaku, can present an essential defensive aid. Of their draw with Udinese, defender Samir was booked after noticing he was about to be turned by his man on the break, and hauled Lukaku to the bottom. The choice could have been much more painful than a yellow card.
Tottenham can relaxation comparatively straightforward about Chelsea’s risk from set-pieces, too. Regardless of recurrently having three massive centre-backs on the pitch, they’ve scored solely three targets from free-kicks because the begin of final season.
Keep alert on the counter
Lukaku hasn’t bought Adama Traore ranges of tempo, however he is definitely no slouch. His velocity matched along with his energy provides Chelsea a harmful choice on the counter-attack, and Tottenham’s defence will should be alert to not get caught on their heels from any balls in behind.
That is the place Nuno will hope to have Romero accessible, because the Argentine can draw on his personal efficiency in opposition to Lukaku for Atalanta final season for inspiration. At one level within the second half, Lukaku outmuscled Rafael Toloi to a ball ahead and was left clear by on aim with a 15-yard begin on Romero, however did not get a shot away due to the tempo of the defender’s restoration run.
That was one in every of two events within the recreation the place Romero’s tempo and fast pondering denied Lukaku when the striker appeared by on aim, an asset which may show pivotal for Spurs if Chelsea look to go direct to their quantity 9 at any level.
Regardless of the personnel at Nuno’s disposal, they should be at their absolute best to cease Lukaku from persevering with his sensational begin since his return to Chelsea. Devising a recreation plan on the coaching pitch to cease him is one factor – implementing it on the pitch is kind of one other.