Thomas Tuchel must keep control of Romelu Lukaku situation or risks same fate as Chelsea managers before him

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·3-min read
Thomas Tuchel must keep control of Romelu Lukaku situation or risks same fate as Chelsea managers before him
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  • Chelsea
    Chelsea
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Thomas Tuchel
    German association football manager and former player
  • Romelu Lukaku
    Romelu Lukaku
    Belgian association football player

A rousing fightback against Liverpool should encourage Thomas Tuchel that his players are in his corner over the public fallout with Romelu Lukaku.

But history tells us that, when it comes to Chelsea, it tends to be the superstar signing who outlasts the manager.

Not always - with Diego Costa being the exception that proves the rule – but Antonio Conte’s decision to go to war with the former striker could be viewed as the beginning of his long goodbye at Stamford Bridge.

Under the Chelsea model, managers are often more expendable than marquee signings.

It is not exactly a secret – and certainly not within the star-studded dressing rooms that have seen one hired gun after another come and go over the years.

Costa won the Premier League titles under two different managers in three years at the club.

John Terry’s five titles came under three managers, with Jose Mourinho winning in two separate spells.

It is a model that works, and one that Tuchel bought into when taking charge last season. And one that he must know makes him as vulnerable as all of his predecessors under Roman Abramovich’s ownership.

Because of that, he needs to call the Lukaku situation absolutely right.

A statement was made by dropping him from the squad for Sunday’s draw with Liverpool that effectively ended Chelsea’s hopes of mounting a title challenge. But the danger for Tuchel is that the issue gets out of his control from here.

If Lukaku was unhappy before – as he said during his bombshell interview with Sky Italia – he is unlikely to have been placated by missing out on such a critical game, particularly after sitting out so much of the season due to injury and Covid.

While Tuchel claimed he was “protecting” the player from a “rushed decision,” a bold decision was made all the same.

It was a very public admonishment of the club record signing, who has already seen his dream return to Chelsea prove anything but as he has struggled to adapt to Tuchel’s system and failed to replicate his outstanding form when in Italy with Inter Milan.

How Lukaku reacts is key. Will this be a short, sharp shock?

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

Will he accept Tuchel’s need to assert his authority – or will he consider it a breakdown of trust between player and manager?

Perhaps Tuchel will be powerless to manage Lukaku’s reaction, but that is his job right now.

The next five months are absolutely critical for a manager who set the bar so high when replacing Frank Lampard that he almost ensured his own “failure” in his first full season in charge.

December’s slump means Tuchel enters 2022 needing to retain the Champions League to keep his reign in the ascendency.

That is the brutal truth – but, even if the title is surely out of reach this season, there is still much to play for.

The Carabao Cup, the Club World Cup, the FA Cup and the Champions League. It could still be glorious.

Were Chelsea to conquer Europe again and close the gap to Manchester City, it would undoubtedly be considered a success. The danger now is that City’s dominance remains untouched.

There was a 19-point gap between Pep Guardiola’s champions and Chelsea last season. The difference now is 10 points with the new year only just begun.

That was not supposed to be the case after Lukaku’s arrival. He was supposed to be the final piece of the jigsaw.

Instead, Tuchel appears to have lost his way when it comes to solving the puzzle of how to end Guardiola’s dominance.

A fit and firing Lukaku can only help. Which is why the next chapter in this story is so critical.

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