Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel needs his superhero Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to lift ‘curse’

·3-min read
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel needs his superhero Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to lift ‘curse’

In the surroundings of Zagreb’s Stadion Maksimir, a masked Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was shown off to the media by Chelsea for the first time.

The open training session showed the extent of the custom-built Italian-made face mask he will wear against Dinamo this evening.

It will give the £12million deadline-day signing from Barcelona a superhero look.

Chelsea, whose goal-shy attack has struggled badly this season, need a hero to overcome what started as a joke but has now become a feared “curse” of their No9 shirt.

The now-departed Romelu Lukaku was Chelsea’s top scorer last season, but disappointed by scoring just 15 goals, and his and the team’s goals dried up in the second half of the campaign.

The season before last, defensive midfielder and penalty expert Jorginho was top scorer in the Premier League with seven goals.

Timo Werner also left Chelsea this summer after failing to score consistently, and those who wear the No9 shirt at Stamford Bridge have often failed to perform.

Lukaku, Fernando Torres, Alvaro Morata, Gonzalo Higuain and Radamel Falcao are some of the superstar names to fail while wearing the number. As well as several world-class strikers who have not lived up to expectations, it has also been worn by Steve Sidwell and Khalid Boulahrouz.

“It’s cursed, it’s cursed, people tell me it’s cursed,” said Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel following the departure of Lukaku in the summer.

“There was not a big demand for No9. Players sometimes want to change numbers but, surprisingly, nobody wants to touch it.”

The “curse” is not something Aubameyang cares about. He selected the shirt straight away when he secured his return to English football on deadline day, just seven months after leaving Arsenal.

The Amazon documentary All or Nothing: Arsenal showed the fallout between Aubameyang and Gunners boss Mikel Arteta in extraordinary detail ahead of his departure from Emirates Stadium.

 (Chelsea FC via Getty Images)
(Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

It is not a good watch for the Gabon international, who is painted as unprofessional before being forced out of the club.

As tensions grew with Arteta in his last year and a half at Arsenal, his strike rate went down from 44 in 72 games in his first two years to 14 in 43.

Tuchel has watched the Amazon documentary, but leans on his own close relationship with someone “who will always be my player”.

Aubameyang was his star player at Borussia Dortmund, scoring 79 goals in 95 games, with the pair staying in contact after they went their separate ways.

Now 33, Tuchel must get a tune out of a player who he helped in the past.

“He’s very ambitious, very focused,” said Tuchel yesterday. “He’s hungry to play for us and prove a point. That’s why he’s here, that’s what we felt from the first moment. He is happily invited to prove a point tomorrow.”

Aubameyang’s 11 La Liga goals at Barcelona in 13 starts and 17 appearances are a sign that he has still got it. It is why Tuchel was surprised Barca were ready to let him go. Robert Lewandowski moved to the Nou Camp, using the same agent that brought Tuchel to Chelsea, and soon the idea of a reunion between manager and player was floated late in the transfer window.

Chelsea have not had a clinical striker since the 2016-17 season, when Diego Costa ran rampant, propelling the Blues to their last Premier League title.

Tuchel needs a hero to find the net regularly, which has been a problem during his time at Stamford Bridge. He is banking on Aubameyang being that man.