Chelsea have four problems Thomas Tuchel must solve during international break

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Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel will be keen for his side to improve their form after a slight dip in performances over the past few weeks and has plenty to work on over the international break. Successive 1-0 defeats by Manchester City and Juventus in the Premier League and Champions League handed the Blues their first losses of the season, while Tuchel’s side needed Southampton to go down to 10 men before they took control during their 3-1 win over the Saints at the weekend. 

Romelu Lukaku’s role 

Antonio Conte, Lukaku’s former Inter Milan coach, launched a stinging dig at Tuchel over his use of the Belgian. The Italian suggested that Chelsea have not quite figured out how to use him amid Lukaku’s mini goal drought – the striker has now not scored for five games.

When Chelsea spent vast periods defending against Man City, Lukaku often found himself deep, isolated and having to hold up play while support arrived. While Lukaku’s hold-up play is excellent, he is far better when facing the opposition goal.  

That is evidenced in the goals he has scored so far but is also something the 28-year-old referenced himself in an interview with UEFA.com last week.  

“The way I’m built – I’m quite big – everybody thinks I’m a sort of target man: just holding up the ball and being a goal poacher. But I’ve never played that way and I hate it,” he said. 

“My biggest strength is that I’m dangerous when I’m facing towards the goal, because that’s when I rarely make wrong choices.  

“After I pass the ball, I know where I have to position myself in the box. I can do a bit of everything and in some games when I know there is a lot of space behind the defence, I play differently. The reason I’m so productive [in front of goal] is because I can do a bit of everything.” 

Play to his strengths and he might score more goals. 

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Who plays behind Lukaku? 

One thing that might help Lukaku rediscover the form he showed in the first month after his blockbuster £97.5million arrival from Inter would be for Tuchel to settle on an attacking pairing to play behind the striker.  

The German has often gone with Mason Mount and Kai Havertz but neither have had excellent starts to the Premier League season.  

Mount has one assist in eight appearances in all competitions. Havertz has a goal and an assist in his nine matches. Lukaku would be fair to argue that he can expect better service from those closest to him on the pitch. 

One of the biggest strengths of Tuchel’s squad is that he has a plethora of options for the two attacking midfield roles. Christian Pulisic is a world beater on his day, but hasn’t been seen since he scored against Crystal Palace on the opening day of the campaign.  

Hakim Ziyech tends to do well when he is given a rare opportunity to play. Tuchel has also suggested that the inside-left position is where Timo Werner will feature, rather than as the lone forward after his goalscoring troubles last season.

Tuchel may want to consider trying to settle on a player who could suit Lukaku’s style over the interntional break.

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Winning the biggest games 

It seems petty to question Tuchel’s big-game record given his Champions League exploits last term, but Chelsea have struggled in a few matches against clubs of their level this season.  

The 1-0 defeats against Man City and Juventus last week understandbly raised some concerns. The latter reverse gives Chelsea work to do to finish top of their Champions League group.  

The Blues were poor in both games and also failed to beat Liverpool earlier on in the season, but were not helped by the fact that they went down to 10 man due to Reece James’ red card.  

Against City, Tuchel’s side defended deep and tried to close as much space as possible. A team as good as City will ultimately find a way through against any opposition.  

It is in those matches that the 48-year-old might choose to be a little more adventurous. After all, he has the tools at his disposal to do so.

Antonio Rudiger’s future 

Although it might not be the head coach’s job to negotiate contracts, Tuchel will want the Chelsea hierarchy to press ahead with securing centre-back Rudiger to a new contract.  

The German has, slightly worryingly, not yet agreed fresh terms even though his contract ends in the summer.  

Bayern Munich, Tottenham and Borussia Dortmund have been linked with the 28-year-old, although some reports have suggested that he is happy to remain at Chelsea.  

Rudiger has become an important player under Tuchel with Rio Ferdinand recently labelling him the best centre-back in the Premier League at the moment. He was excellent in the Blues’ Champions League final victory over Man City and starred on their rise from ninth to fourth in the league following the boss’ January appointment.  

Tuchel will not want to lose a player of Rudiger’s importance on a free transfer at the end of the season and has already made that clear. Rudiger, however, was said to be left ‘disappointed’ by Chelsea’s latest contract offer.



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