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Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel facing familiar problem after Romelu Lukaku ‘trust’ comments

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Chelsea will travel to play Luton Town in the fifth round of the FA Cup after seeing off a spirited Plymouth Argyle on Saturday afternoon.

A win is a win, but it took 120 tiring minutes to see off the League One side and there were familiar problems for the Blues, who were without Thomas Tuchel following a positive Covid test.

Chelsea’s goals came from full-backs Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso, while they also needed a late penalty save from Kepa Arrizabalaga to see off Plymouth 2-1 at Stamford Bridge.

That is despite Romelu Lukaku playing the full match against defenders who ply their trade two divisions below the Premier League.

Lukaku was full of exuberance and endeavour, but he was severely lacking in the quality you might expect from a player who cost the club £97.5million in the summer.

Tuchel has frequently called for patience in his star striker, yet that might be beginning to wear thin after another sub-par performance from the Belgian striker.

The 28-year-old scored 64 goals in 95 appearances for Inter Milan, 42 in 96 for Manchester United and 87 in 166 for Everton.

Those are elite strike rates which stretch back across his entire career and take in two different leagues. There is plenty of sample size to suggest Lukaku should be performing better than he currently is.

But a record of eight goals in 24 appearances so far this season for Chelsea – and zero in his last five – is simply not good enough.

Despite his moans and groans about the system not suiting him, Chelsea create plenty of chances for Lukaku. His excuses are not valid.

With Tuchel missing due to Covid, it fell on first team coach Arno Michels to talk about Lukaku post-match.

“For him, maybe, it’s a little bit tough right now to score,” Michels said.

“He is working a lot for the team, doing a lot of touches, but is a little bit unlucky.

“We try to put him [on the pitch], give him opportunities, and we will keep on like this because he is an important player for us.

“He is a striker so therefore he also needs some trust in the moments he doesn’t score.”

It may not have mattered this time, thanks to smart finishes from Azpilicueta and Alonso from low near-post crosses, but Chelsea have a problem.

Lukaku was bought to play as the central striker in Tuchel’s chosen 3-4-2-1 system, because neither Timo Werner or Kai Havertz are capable of performing that role.

He has the physical attributes to do so but is not returning enough goals to justify his selection.

Last season Chelsea finished the campaign with Jorginho as their highest Premier League goal scorer with seven penalties.

The thinking was that, after winning the Champions League, all they needed was a prolific central striker to take them to the next level and challenge for the league title.

Lukaku is not fulfilling that brief currently and, after choosing not to invest in the January transfer window, Chelsea will have to wait until the summer for another opportunity.

Like just about every major club in Europe, Erling Haaland will inevitably be on the mind for Chelsea this summer.

His ridiculous goal record of 80 in 79 games for Borussia Dortmund and £63m (€75m) release clause makes him an alluring prospect.

Haaland certainly won’t be easy to sign, with competition coming from Manchester United, Manchester City, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich.

But if Lukaku’s poor form continues then Chelsea may not be left with much other choice than to go all-out for the Norwegian’s signature.

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Rio Ferdinand issues major warning about Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag

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Former centre-back Rio Ferdinand believes it is still too early to judge whether Erik ten Hag is the right man to lead Manchester United back to the top, despite their unquestionable improvement under him this season.

United head into tomorrow’s Manchester derby against City at Old Trafford with the knowledge that a win will lift them to within a point and place of their neighbours in the Premier League table.

The Reds have lost just one of their last 18 matches since being battered 6-3 by City back in October, featuring a current run of eight wins on the bounce.

The Reds, such is the level of progress they have made under Ten Hag this season, are now considered as one of the favourites to qualify for the Champions League for next season.

They have made significant strides in a relatively short space of time and victories over the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur already this season have proven that they are capable of competing in the upper echelons of the table again.

However, despite heading into the second half of the campaign with form in their sails, Ferdinand insists the jury is still out on Ten Hag, despite him reaching 20 wins as United manager quick than any of his predecessors.

“I think it’s too early to say,” said Ferdinand to the Mirror. “We’ve been here with previous managers when it looks like we are onto something.

“We’ve got to be patient and give the man time. I think all the signs are very positive at the moment. He’s come in and seen what is happening, assessed how things are, looked at individuals and looked at the shape of the team.

“These were a bunch of players that were quite low. They were shot to pieces and he’s had to build, not only footballers, but men back up again. He’s had to build a lot of human beings back up and that takes time.

“The fact he’s now talking about qualifying for the Champions League so positively, he can sense a confidence coming back into this team. There’s a consistency of performance from the team that wasn’t there before and the signals and signs are all very promising.

“But they’re still not where they want to be. City are way ahead of where United are. The distance is a bit closer, but it’s still not anywhere near where we want it to be. There’s still work to be done.”

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Manchester United takeover bids ‘expected imminently’ with serious interest in Club

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Manchester United are expecting takeover offers from across the world as they are set to invite bids ahead of ‘mid-February deadline’.

The Telegraph have reported that the club have received ‘serious interest’ from consortiums based in the Middle East, Asia and the United States.

British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe is also weighing up an offer, as the Glazers hope to the sell one of the biggest clubs in the world for over £5billion.

The report also adds that parties who had been interested in taking over Chelsea, before Todd Boehly’s £4.25bn takeover, are set to return with approaches for the Red Devils.

It’s expected that potential investors will go public with their attempts to buy United in the coming weeks with the clock ‘now ticking on a deal’.

Senior United figures will issue a mid February deadline for formal offers in order to help get get the takeover completed before the end of the season.

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Confirmed: Chelsea ready to make late bid to hijack another Arsenal transfer

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Chelsea will make a late attempt to scupper Arsenal’s hopes of finally signing Mikhailo Mudryk from Shakhtar Donetsk.

The Gunners have submitted their third bid for the Ukraine international winger and hope an offer of £62m before add-ons, which take the deal closer to £70m, will be enough to break the deadlock between the two clubs.

Chelsea’s interest in the 21-year-old winger was earlier this week described only as ‘exploratory’ but ESPN now claim that Todd Boehly will test the waters and attempt to throw a spanner in the works for the Premier League leaders.

Shakhtar’s technical director Darijo Srna was pictured at Stamford Bridge last week as he watched Chelsea’s defeat against Manchester City and Boehly would have little issue with meeting an asking price which is closer to £88million.

Arsenal are said to be confident that their latest bid for Mudryk will be enough to finally secure the services of their No.1 January target, but have already been beaten to the punch once this month by their west London rivals.

Chelsea won the race to sign Joao Felix on loan from Atletico Madrid amid competition from Arsenal and Manchester United, but the Portugal international’s promising debut ended in devastating fashion when he was sent off just shy of the hour mark for a dangerous challenge on Fulham’s Kenny Tete.

Felix will now miss the next three games through suspension as the problems mount for Chelsea’s under-fire manager Graham Potter.

‘It sums up where we are at the moment – everything that can go wrong, is going wrong,’ Potter said after Chelsea’s 2-1 west London derby defeat.

‘It was a forward’s tackle from Joao, there was no malice in it but I understand why it was a red. It is another blow the hits keep coming at the moment.

‘He was really good you could see his quality in the game so it is doubly disappointing for us because he was looking dangerous throughout.

‘I don’t think there was too much malice in it and it is an unfortunate action and we are going to lose him now for three games.’

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