Thomas Tuchel with questions to answer as Romelu Lukaku shines in front of Todd Boehly

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·4-min read
Thomas Tuchel with questions to answer as Romelu Lukaku shines in front of Todd Boehly
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Todd Boehly looked mildly confused when VAR ruled out a Chelsea goal in the first half – but he must be utterly baffled by Thomas Tuchel’s handling of Romelu Lukaku after this performance.

The club’s soon-to-be new owner watched on from the executive seats as the £97.5million striker scored twice before Wolves fought back to secure a dramatic 2-2 draw.

This was a good day for Lukaku in front of his new boss. A bad one for Tuchel, who squandered two points and is now looking nervously over his shoulder at Arsenal.

Lukaku’s goals moved him clear of Kai Havertz as Chelsea’s leading scorer this season, with 14 in all competitions, despite starting just four of the last 18 matches.

This is a new era at Stamford Bridge – and the wise money is on money being spent wisely post-Roman Abramovich.

Boehly and his consortium would be within their rights to question why the club record signing has been used so sparingly. This is the club that, under Abramovich, signed the most expensive goalkeeper in the world, only to use him as an understudy.

Such reckless spending is unlikely to be tolerated by the new owners – and when Boehly sits down to talk to Tuchel, that may well be relayed.

This was some impression made by Lukaku, who won and converted a penalty to fire Chelsea in front in the second half – and just two minutes later finished clinically to the home side two up.

It was a demonstration of what the Belgium international can produce in the right system, with the right service.

And it was not just about his goals, with Timo Werner benefiting from the ‘little and large’ partnership that saw the German twice forcing Jose Sa to produce impressive saves before Chelsea went in front.

Of course, one game is not representative of the season.

Lukaku has looked off the pace ever since an ankle injury in October. He has struggled to adapt to his new teammates or life back in the Premier League.

Tuchel’s under-use of him has been largely justified.

But it is also on the manager to get the best out of his players – particularly one bought at such great expense last summer and tipped to be a difference-maker in terms of Chelsea’s title ambitions.

 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

So there is blame on both sides.

But Boehly, having just walked through the door, can only judge on what he sees. And on this occasion, he saw Lukaku do everything asked of him, while Tuchel made it a run of just one win from five games.

What happens with Lukaku feels like it could be instructive in regards to this new era at the Bridge. Will Tuchel be allowed to write him off as yet another failed No9 – or will there be pressure placed on him to make this relationship work?

It certainly looks like a relationship that needs work.

Tuchel was muted in his celebration when Lukaku struck from the spot on 56 minutes after Romain Saiss brought him down and referee Peter Bankes consulted the pitchside monitor to award a penalty.

It was also notable that the 28-year-old high-fived the majority of the coaching staff when he came off in injury time, but not his manager.

Lukaku looked to have secured the points when he swept home Christian Pulisic’s perfectly-weighted through-ball in the 58th-minute, which prompted celebrations from Boehly. But the American businessman would end the game with his head in his hands as Wolves mounted a remarkable comeback.

First, substitute Francisco Trincao curled a sweet shot past Edouard Mendy from the edge of the area, with 11 minutes left on the clock.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

He almost added a second shortly after when putting Thiago Silva and Mendy on their backsides before rolling the ball just wide of the upright.

If Chelsea thought they had survived the scare, they were wrong.

In the sixth-minute of stoppage time, Chiquinho’s cross from the right was powered home by the head of Conor Coady to spark wild celebrations from the away fans and leave Boehly stunned.

If Arsenal win their game in hand, they will move to within just a point of their London rivals.

Anything other than third place would feel like a failure, considering this was a campaign in which Tuchel was expected to challenge Manchester City and Liverpool for the title.

He will want to show progress in his first full season in charge. Finishing a distant fourth for the second year in succession, would not represent that - particularly without the Champions League trophy they lifted last May.

The FA Cup next weekend still provides an opportunity for more silverware.

And after this performance Lukaku may have just put himself in the frame for a start at Wembley.

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