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

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.