Romelu Lukaku faced with new Chelsea reality but handed unique opportunity ahead of Brentford

Chelsea earned their 12th win in 13 matches as they progressed in the FA Cup semi-final with their victory of Middlesbrough.

The Blues headed into the clash amidst plenty of background issues given their miscalculated request to play the game behind closed doors and the deadline set for new owners to place their bid for the club. Chelsea arrived at the Riverside to boos from the opposition fans as their coach pulled in.

Nevertheless the 600 or so Chelsea fans allowed to make the trip north were treated to a professional performance with two first half goals supplied by Mason Mount earning the win. Romelu Lukaku first easily finished from Mount’s cross that was deliciously placed before Hakim Ziyech founds space on the edge of the box to once again produce a superb goal from distance.

READ MORE: Why Thomas Tuchel was angry with Mateo Kovacic as Mason Mount hits Chelsea landmark

Thomas Tuchel was pleased with this side’s performance once again amid the trying circumstance. takes a look at the talking points to arise from the match.

Mason Mount’s role and Thomas Tuchel’s tactics

Mount put in quite the performance against Christ Wilder’s side and ran the show in the opening heart. Rather than flanking Lukaku or being placed in a midfield three, he had a pretty free role in the hole and made the most of it.

“Normally they like to attack over the right side so we need to be aware of it and be strong,” said Tuchel. “They are good on long balls, good on counter-attacks, good on build-up play with the central No.6. We are prepared and aware of it but we need to do and show, not get frustrated and accept that it’s a touch match.”

While Tuchel noted Boro’s right side, it was their left that Mount was repeatedly able to take advantage. It was never more clear than in Chelsea’s opening goal as Ziyech found himself in his own half, beating the opposition press with Thiago Silva before releasing Mount down the wing into plenty of space. The 23-year-old delivered the ball across the six-yard line in an almost mirror image to his ball for Cesar Azpilicueta against Lille.

He paired with Ziyech when pressing and attacking as they formed another potent combination for Tuchel to think about. The German coach will seeming always favour a formation with three central defenders, but it’s promising to see the success that can be had with different shapes, even while the first choice defenders aren’t all available.

Romelu Lukaku

The Belgian did his job once again in the FA Cup as he notched an easy goal thanks to Mount’s perfect ball in. Lukaku finds himself still Chelsea’s top goalscorer, surpassing Kai Havertz’s mark of 11 goals against the Smoggies.

The former Inter striker put in a steady display showing some good combinations with Ziyech and Mount as he earned his first extensive set of minutes since the win over Luton Town. When he was replaced by Harvey Vale in the 84th minute, it was the first FA Cup minutes he has missed since the third round win over Chesterfield.

For now, Lukaku has become a cup player, behind Kai Havertz in the pecking order. The German international has earned his pace leading the line with seven goals in 2022, including four in three games in the Premier League. It’s of course difficult for the 28-year-old striker to truly prove himself against lower league opposition, but he can only keep scoring when handed the opportunity and has little other choice, given the Blues current form.

Reece James

It was another game missed for the wing-back with Chelsea now presented with the problem of England having called him up for duty. Clearly anyone with an affiliation to the Blues will believe James is best served by remaining at Cobham to possibly return in time for the Brentford clash following the international break.

Tuchel put forward his argument in his press conference: “He is still in individual training, otherwise, we would have brought him to Lille and we would have brought him here for sure. There is no doubt about it. He is still in individual training, he needs one more week of rehabilitation and I think we can provide this much better than – it is not the job of the national team to do this.”

Ultimately, it does not feel as if it will solely be Chelsea decision with Petr Cech set for a conversation with the England set-up. Rightly, or wrongly the Blues could be left with their fingers crossed.

However, with James having not even travelled for matches as of yet, it should be a simple decision for all involved. Without match practice is James really the best option for two friendlies with plenty of other chances before the World Cup in November?

The international break

Rarely has an international break appeared as crucial as this one for Chelsea. They may have a perfect record since Roman Abramovich’s sanctions were announced, but the group will be thankful for some escape from the intense scrutiny at Stamford Bridge, whether they head off to serve with their international sides or have time to recharge their batteries. Regardless, it will provide an opportunity to reset, and perhaps a takeover could be well on it’s way by the time Premier League football returns. Thomas Tuchel’s plans for the break are simple.

He said: “Very easy – a holiday for the players that have the chance. That they recharge and disconnect from football because they deserve and it is also very important that they take this possibility to come with a fresh mindset for the last eight weeks of the season and the guys who go for international duties I hope they have the success they want and they come back not injured.”

One man who will be afforded more rest than usual is Lukaku however. Belgium coach Roberto Martinez has named a youthful squad and left out Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard too. It provides a scarce opportunity for the ex-Manchester United forward to spend some extended time with Tuchel with fewer players at Cobham.

As noted earlier, Lukaku is behind Havertz in the pecking order, but the week leading to Brentford could be crucial in Tuchel and his charge learning more from each other, while the striking competition is away from the club.

It may not result in an immediate start, unless Havertz is particularly unlucky on international duty, but it will provide Lukaku with an important time to reflect, learn and to set his stall in training to prove he can be the man for the Blues once again.

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