EPL

Lukaku arrival is good news for Werner, insists Tuchel

By Sports Desk August 14, 2021

Romelu Lukaku's arrival at Chelsea is good news for Timo Werner and Chelsea's other attacking players, according to head coach Thomas Tuchel.

Chelsea spent a reported club-record fee of £97.5million (€115m) to re-sign Lukaku from Inter this week, adding to Tuchel's options in the final third.

The 28-year-old was not included in the squad for Saturday's Premier League opener, with Werner instead leading the line for Chelsea.

Despite the Blues easing to a routine 3-0 win against Crystal Palace, it was a largely frustrating day for Werner as he managed only one attempt at Stamford Bridge.

Former RB Leipzig man Werner also had just 29 touches of the ball across his 90 minutes on the field, which was the fewest of any outfield Chelsea starter.

Lukaku's arrival has only increased the competition for places up top this term, but Tuchel can see the Belgian getting more out of Werner this season.

"I think the arrival of Romelu will help Timo a lot," Tuchel told Sky Sports. "He takes responsibility and will take some off Timo, Kai Havertz and Christian Pulisic.

"It gives us more variations. We can play with two strikers or go with a front three. The arrival of Romelu is good news for Timo."

Asked if Lukaku will be ready to start next week's trip to Arsenal, Tuchel added: "He escapes isolation on Monday, has a full week to prepare and should be on the pitch."

Saturday's victory at Stamford Bridge was Chelsea's eighth in a row against Palace, sealed thanks to goals from Marcos Alonso, Pulisic and Trevoh Chalobah.

Academy product Chalobah was making his first Premier League start for the Blues, having also featured from the beginning in Wednesday's Super Cup win over Villarreal.

At 22 years and 40 days, he is the second youngest Chelsea player to score on his debut in the competition after Paul Hughes (20y 274d) versus Derby County in 1997. 

And Tuchel believes the instant impact made by Chalobah, the brother of Chelsea title winner Nathaniel, proves there is a route to the first team for up-and-coming players.

"He produced two fantastic performances and played almost every minute in pre-season," Tuchel said. "He is a humble guy from the academy and was so, so good today.

"He plays with so much confidence and has so many good behaviours on the pitch. It was a pretty perfect afternoon for him. 

"You saw how they celebrated with him and these are the stories we love about football.

"In this game, in an exciting league with players from abroad, there is still place for homegrown talent at our club and other big clubs."

Chalobah, who spent the past three seasons out on loan, fired past Vicente Guaita with a long-range shot to round off the scoring for Chelsea in front of their returning fans.

The youngster has been with Chelsea since the age of eight and is glad to have taken full advantage of his opportunity to impress under Tuchel.

"It is a dream for a boy like me being here and to play for my home club is unreal," Chalobah added. "As I was getting closer to the goal I thought I might as well shoot.

"I didn't know the ball went in. I didn't know what to do. I was over the moon.

"I have been training with the team in pre-season and the manager said I was playing and I was ready.

"I was surprised by the Super Cup game too and the work has paid off. I have taken the opportunity with both hands."

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    After they each exploded for five-touchdown performances in the Wild Card Round, most of the attention on the AFC side of the postseason has focused on the rematch between Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen and Kansas City Chiefs counterpart Patrick Mahomes.

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    A slight drop-off

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    Henry low on power?

    Henry's fearsome reputation as the most overpowering running back in the NFL is one earned off the back of a string of highlight-reel runs comprising brute force and remarkable open-field speed for a man of his size.

    More than simply bouncing off defenders, Henry is a back who can run them over at will.

    That makes his numbers in terms of after-contact yardage this season extremely surprising.

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    Yet his efforts in that regard were inferior to those of both Foreman and Hilliard. Foreman averaged 3.40 yards per attempt when faced with a run disruption and Hilliard went beyond that with 4.03 yards per carry in those situations.

    Their efficiency in that area is in part down to a smaller sample size, Henry carried the ball 219 times this season compared to 133 rush attempts for Foreman and 56 for Hilliard.

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    A play-action asset

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    Without Henry, they averaged 7.06 yards per play on play-action and bootleg passes, below the league average of 8.1. With Henry on the field, that figure ballooned to a remarkable 9.94 yards per play.

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    As a player whose reputation precedes him, Henry's mere presence forces defenses to commit more men to the box and helps set up play-action passes on which the Titans averaged almost enough yardage for a first down on every such play when he was healthy in 2021.

    It remains to be seen how effective Henry can be after his lengthy spell on the sidelines, yet the numbers leave no doubt his return does matter. However, he is less important to what has been a consistent rushing attack than he is to a passing game that may need to go blow for blow with Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow to avoid a swift playoff exit.

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    TOP STORY – MAN UTD GIVE UP ON HAALAND

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    ROUND-UP

    - Manchester City are closing in on a deal for River Plate's 21-year-old Argentina international Julian Alvarez, claims The Telegraph. As part of the imminent deal, Alvarez – who has interest from Milan, Inter and Juventus – will remain with River until June. The fee is expected to be no less than £20m.

    - Liverpool have joined the race to sign Borussia Monchengladbach's Denis Zakaria, according to ESPN. The Reds will rival Dortmund and Bayern Munich who are both keen on the Swiss midfielder.

    - Ajax's Mexico international Edson Alvarez is attracting interest from Premier League trio Chelsea, Leicester City and Crystal Palace, reports Football Insider.

    - Leeds United have opened contract talks with Brazilian superstar Raphinha,  according to the Daily Star, amid interest from Chelsea and Liverpool .

    - French club Nice are set to offer Tottenham's Bryan Gil a loan deal, according to L'Equipe. The Spaniard has struggled for impact since his move to England.

    - Diario AS claims that Valencia are working on a January deal for Athletic Bilbao defender Unai Nunez .

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