Romelu Lukaku’s return to Chelsea was one of the biggest stories of the summer, but he needs more support from the creative players in the squad in the weeks and months ahead.
The Belgian’s introduction to Thomas Tuchel’s European champions has elevated the side even further and will undoubtedly give them a more clinical and powerful goal outlet up top.
But, if he’s going to prove the difference for the Blues this campaign, their creators have to provide regular service and not rely on one moment of quality from an unpredictable source – whish is exactly what happened in Chelsea’s eventual 1-0 victory over Zenit on Tuesday night.
Tuchel’s men kicked off their Champions League campaign with a win, although should by no means be satisfied with the performance. When it came to adding a spark in dangerous areas, it was underwhelming, not clinical enough and, quite frankly, boring.
Hakim Ziyech’s hour-long stint on the pitch was a perfect summary of his Chelsea career to date. The Moroccan, admittedly, did a good job at dropping off the forward line and occupying little pockets of space between midfield and attack, but lacked an end product.
On the occasions that Zenit’s Wilmar Barrios didn’t manage to stifle Ziyech in time, the Chelsea man failed to make his opposition pay. Snap shots that rolled into the goalkeeper’s arms, attempted passes that were far too easily cut out and an overall appearance of someone completely lost – it was difficult to watch and just not good enough.
Mason Mount, who lasted until stoppage time, fared better, The Chelsea youth product actually managed three key passes and looked bright and sharp when he got on the ball – at least he had a true sense of direction. The problem came, however, when he attempted that killer pass.
The ball he’s been able to execute so perfectly over the past couple of years was absent on Tuesday night and, for large parts of the game, it looked as though Lukaku would go hungry in front of goal due to severely lacking creative toilers.
In the end, it took a moment of precision from right-sided centre-back and ever-reliable servant Cesar Azpilicueta to provide for the big centre-forward.
The Spaniard was a threat throughout the second half, stepping out of defence brilliantly to distribute possession and contribute to flowing attacking moves up the right wing. It was, indeed, his perfectly weighted swinging cross that found Lukaku, whose expert movement in the Zenit box had allowed to peel off his man and head emphatically into Stanislav Kristyuk’s bottom corner.
It’s no secret that Lukaku doesn’t require many chances to find the back of the net. He is staggeringly clinical and deadly in front of goal; that’s why Chelsea paid £97.5m for him.
However, should the Blues really benefit from the acquisition of such an outstanding marksman, the creators need to step up and deliver much better service – because relying on a defender to deliver a perfect cross to win games will simply not cut it.