Romelu Lukaku is not the happiest chick in the Chelsea nest.
Not because he hasn’t scored in his last five games.
And not because somebody spoiled Squid Game for him.
The Belgian’s frustration stems from a long-lasting judgement about his style of play.
For quite a while now, the Chelsea striker has been placed under a particular category, one often referring to bulky, burly, hold-up men.
A mark etched across the career of a certain Didier Drogba, or the stocky frame of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Those blessed with innate upper body strength and a physical presence to match.
Less Rom-com, more soap opera
Lukaku evidently doesn’t think much of this description.
“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,” remarked the 28-year-old recently.
“But I’ve never played that way and I hate it.”
Not a bad attempt to banish the label, but one that probably won’t hold up, if you pardon the pun.
Lukaku is amongst the best at collecting possession with his rear to goal, shrugging off a defender and heading towards his target.
This method provides personal benefits and rewards for his teammates. Spaces appear, opportunities arise.
Arsenal were victims to this exact approach earlier in the season, a textbook example of how not to contain Chelsea’s no.9.
Aston Villa and Zenit St Petersburg also felt the force of Lukaku’s sword.
All whilst achieved when acting as the ‘target man’.
If it isn’t broke, why fix it?
Well, teams started to repair their own approach in order to handle the lethal attacker.
Mainly because he insisted on taking the ball whilst facing away from the danger zone.
Not a great way to shake off the ‘target man’ chasing him around.
Hoddle on hand
Glen Hoddle carefully watched both the City and Juve encounters where Lukaku struggled.
“I saw him against City, I wanted him to get on the shoulder on the outside of the centre-backs,” said the former Chelsea manager whilst reporting live for BT Sport.
“He’s doing it again tonight. He’s making it easy, sort of faced up, they are marking him from behind.”
Here’s the analysis; how about the solution?
“He needs to pull off the shoulder and get some diagonal balls played into him,” continued Hoddle.
“That’s why I think he needs to change his game up from the attacking point of view.
“Lukaku looks for that ball at the moment all the time. He tries to pin defenders.
“Well, when the ball goes out wide at an angle, you can drift off the shoulders of defenders. He doesn’t need to be there (in the middle).”
Hoddle has provided a very good alternative to help Lukaku avoid the tag he hates so intently.
Peeling away from his marker, rather than constantly standing in front of him.
Who knows, maybe the goals will start to fly in again if he follows Glen’s guidance.