There must be money to be made betting that Romelu Lukaku will be sipping an espresso coffee in an Italian cafe in the summer. The chances of him staying at Chelsea after his £97.5million signing only a few months ago are getting slimmer every week despite Thomas Tuchel backing his striker to do better.
Romelu’s much talked about 7 touches of the ball in the game against Crystal Palace is something he will want to forget very quickly.
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He might also want to forget that while he sat on the bench Kai Havertz and Christian Pulisic excelled in Chelsea’s midweek win against Lille in the Champions League playing a 3-4-2-1 system which suited them both.
Walking along the corridors at Stamford Bridge displaying pictures of past players I was reminded of the big-name strikers who arrived at Chelsea and failed to make their mark…think of £50million Fernando Torres, think of Alvaro Morata and Andriy Shevchenko.
They all failed to make an impact at Stamford Bridge. However Tuchel said this week that he will stand by Lukaku and claimed it is his responsibility to get the best out of his star signing.
One problem is that at inter Milan he played in the centre of the attack but at Chelsea he is often pushed out onto the wing during play where of course it is more difficult to score goals.
When in the centre he has been starved of good service balls thorough to him. Tuchel added, “Chelsea is a strong team, a physical team. We demand a lot from our strikers and it is on me to find solutions and Romelu will always be part of the solution.”
THE PERFECT CAPTAIN FOR ARSENAL
The Arsenal captaincy has been a hot topic recently. Mikel Arteta has plenty of options including current captain Alexandre Lacazette, Ben White, Albert Sambi Lokonga, Gabriel and Kieran Tierney.
However, there is one player who has been missed by most people but not Arteta. Current Norwegian national team captain Martin Odegaard is the standout choice.
Whenever there is a break in play it is Odegaard who Mikel Arteta calls over for a tactical chat.
He is a leader in the dressing room, when he walks through the club he is greeted warmly by everyone and on the training ground he is one of the most positive players and always gives 100%.
Arteta confirmed my thinking when he said this week, “Martin walks through the corridors and everybody loves him. He is such a nice, humble guy and he leads by being himself.
It is very natural for him and the captaincy will come, he has all the qualities.”
Lacazette will definitely be retained as captain until the end of the season but Odegaard is very much in the Arteta mould when he captained Arsenal: intelligent, motivating, hard-working and able to give press conferences when Arsenal have a bad day.
The proof is again shown with the Gunner’s 2-0 win against Brentford. Emile Smith Rowe and Saka scored the goals but it was Odegaard who was pulling the strings.
UPDATE ON CAVANI MISSING FROM UNTIED’S TEAM
I spoke with sources regarding Edinson Cavani’s omission from the team which faced Atletico Madrid this week.
The thirty-four-year-old misses his fourth straight game and I was told, “Edi will not be able to make the trip. He has not been training for the last couple
of weeks so he will not be part of the group. He has problems with his groin and he does not feel able to sprint properly. It would be foolish to send him back into full training before he is ready.
Hopefully this coming week will see some improvement and the club medical team are helping him recover.”
SMILING CONTE IS A COMEDIAN
After Harry Kane’s superb performance against Manchester City last weekend manager Antonio Conte joked, “I’d play Harry if he only had one leg!”
HOW TO BEAT MANCHESTER CITY
A month ago it looked like the title race was all over and Manchester City were away and gone. Suddenly it has all changed and the run in to the end of the season is going to be filled with excitement, unexpected results and emotion. What is the secret to beating City.
Crystal Palace employed a dashing approach when winning 2-0 at the Etihad Stadium back in October. Antonio Conte’s team did exactly the same thing. You use a block of players in the middle of the pitch, you let the Blue shirts of City pass the ball about which they like to do and you wait patiently.
Suddenly an opportunity presents itself and the wing backs race forward and play a ball in behind the weaker backline of the City defence and with a players of the quality of Tottenham’s Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min ready to snap up an opportunity there is always a chance of a goal. Even Pep Guardiola accepted that he had been beaten by such a strategy and he also admitted that the title race is again open to several teams.
BIELSA THE GURU UNDER PRESSURE
You can’t help but admire Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa. He would have made a poor politician because when all around him is collapsing he blames only himself and refuses to hold players and assistant staff responsible.
Despite the appalling injury list, refereeing decisions which have cost Leeds dearly and terrible fixture chaos, he still raises his head and says, “blame me.”
There is no doubt that to many people inside football Bielsa is more highly respected that any other Premier League manager and yes, that includes Guardiola, Klopp and Conte.
Bielsa is the guru of football. Why then is his team in 15th position in the league? Leeds have conceded more goals in 90 minutes than any other team this season.
Oh yes, and Leeds have no recognised striker. At the moment he has spent longer at Leeds than any other club during his managerial career but refuses to commit to a fifth season at Elland Road.
The club did no relevant business in the transfer window because Bielsa did not push for it. Their wage bill is a lowly 19th in the league and Bielsa is coaching mainly Championship league players.
Bielsa teams attack relentlessly, furious fast pace football and quick decisions made by the players. It is what he has taught them to do. Leeds top the table in tackles and interceptions which demonstrates their intense workmate.
I have heard rumours around Elland Road that RB Leipzig coach Jesse Marsch is being considered as a replacement if Bielsa leaves at the end of the season but I know that the next two months will determine what happens to him and this proud team.
LAMPARD UP AGAINST THE ROPES
Ex-Chelsea legend and sacked manager Frank Lampard knows that he has to make a success at Everton or his reputation as a newcomer to the hot seat will take a severe knock from which he might not recover.
He did not expect to return to management and be involved in a relegation battle but that is the way things look for Everton.
Lampard described his team’s 0-2 loss to Southampton as “wishy washy” which for those who do not know the phrase means pretty poor and thin. Lampard confronted his men on Monday morning and told them, “The table doesn’t lie and we’ve not been getting the results away from home for a while. When we go behind in games there is no reaction! We stopped trying to play. We reverted to long balls, lacking belief in each other. A lot of things have to improve.”