Eni Aluko has praised Romelu Lukaku’s ‘efficiency’ after claiming he gave a sub-par performance in Chelsea’s win over Zenit St. Petersburg, while she has suggested the side’s award-winning midfield could be exploited by rival teams.
The Champions League holders were frustrated for large spells of Tuesday night’s opening group game against the Russian champions, though eventually found a breakthrough midway through the second half thanks to a towering header from their club-record signing.
Lukaku was awarded the Man of the Match award by UEFA for his display in the 1-0 win, though BT Sport pundit Aluko felt he had actually had a quiet night and struggled with his hold-up play at times.
‘There’s just one word for me: he’s so efficient. Sometimes it’s hard when you go to a new team to carry on the form you had. At Inter Milan he scored so many goals there and he’s just continued that,’ said Aluko after the game.
‘And he only needs one chance. He actually didn’t play that well. You saw in a clip there his lay-off play wasn’t great. Sometimes it looked like he needed an extra touch.
‘But in the box, he just needs one chance. He only needs an inch. You see his movement, he just moves a little bit of an inch. For me it’s actually the ball that makes the goal from Azpilicueta.’
Despite Chelsea’s midfield boasting UEFA’s Player of the Year Jorginho and last season’s Champions League midfielder of the year N’Golo Kante, Aluko actually feels the middle of the pitch could be a potential area of weakness for the Blues.
She continued: ‘My only thing with Chelsea is the midfield. If I’m an opposition team looking at Chelsea I’m thinking, “Pack out the midfield, outnumber them, they only play two in there”.
‘We saw Villa do it at the weekend. That’s the only thing, how can Tuchel tactically deal with oppositions that pack out the midfield? That’s the only way I see Chelsea struggling this season.’
Fellow pundit Joe Cole, meanwhile, agreed with Aluko that Lukaku had a somewhat subdued game but felt the Belgian’s presence and potential goal threat unnerved the Zenit backline and preoccupied them, leaving space for others.
Cole explained: ‘He occupied all three centre-halves. In that clip in particular, he attracts people to him. They’re so concerned about him.
‘You’ve got to give credit to Zenit, they blocked the lines and Chelsea couldn’t get the ball into him, but he pinned them back. And even when he’s not playing well, he’s such a presence he occupies players.’
Rio Ferdinand agreed, adding: ‘Yeah 100%. Players like him with his strength, his ability to roll people and really dictate a situation, you don’t want to get too tight but then you don’t want to give him too much space.’