THOMAS TUCHEL has claimed that the Chelsea No. 9 is ‘cursed’ and that none of his players want to touch it.
The Blues begin their season against Everton tonight without a typical center-forward in the squad and with no intentions to bring in a new striker to fill the hole.
Romelu Lukaku, last year’s record signing for £97.5 million, has been loaned back to Inter Milan after becoming the latest big name to struggle in the No 9 jersey, with the Belgian scoring just eight Premier League goals last season.
During Roman Abramovich’s 19-year rule at Chelsea, the Blues signed SEVEN big-name strikers who wore nine on their backs – and all of them failed.
Lukaku, Fernando Torres, Alvaro Morata, Gonzalo Higuain, Radamel Falcao, Hernan Crespo, and Mateja Kezman all arrived in West London with high expectations, but all fell victim to the jinx that the superstitious German claims he believes in.
“It’s cursed, it’s cursed,” remarked Tuchel. “People tell me it’s cursed.”
No, we’re keeping it open for tactical reasons, for people to come in and take it.
“There was not a high demand for No. 9, as there is occasionally when players wish to change numbers.” Surprisingly, no one wants to handle it.
“Everyone who has been at the club longer than me tells me, ‘Ah, you know, he had the nine and he didn’t score… and he had the nine and he didn’t score… and he had the nine and he didn’t score.”
“So we now have a situation in which no one wants to touch the number nine.” “Because I’m superstitious, I can understand why players may avoid it or have different preferences.” It’s like this, but I believe Raheem Sterling will be a big help, and in general, it’s our obligation to create more offensive situations so that we can have more guys in the box.”
While Manchester City and Liverpool have both signed classic center-forwards in Erling Haaland and Darwin Nunez, Chelsea has taken the opposite approach, selling Lukaku and not replacing him.
In a more fluid style, Kai Havertz and £47.5 million new recruit Sterling are set to play as ‘false nines.’
Although Armando Broja, a 20-year-old Albanian forward, has returned from a loan spell at Southampton and could force his way into the starting lineup. “Raheem is one of our offensive players,” Tuchel explained. It will be really smooth if we play in the same structure.
“(At center-forward), he, Kai, Timo Werner, and Broja, who is now in the squad, could all play.”
“Different profiles, various styles of play.” “Liverpool and City demonstrated that a fluid offensive player in the nine position can be very successful.”
Tuchel is focusing on strengthening his defense, with Marc Cucurella signing from Brighton for £55 million and Leicester’s £85 million-rated Wesley Fofana attracting significant Chelsea attention, Tuchel is focusing on strengthening his defense.
However, the manager concedes that his favoured wing-back system might be risky.
“I’m generally optimistic we can win games,” he remarked. We were able to score a lot of goals while using the 3-4-3 formation.
“The formation’s core and strength is a little deep, with three defenders and two central midfielders.”
“As a result, the responsibility for the three attackers may be slightly larger than in other systems.”
“As a result, we rely significantly on our wing-backs, but we still believe it’s a good structure for the attributes of our players.”
We will adjust, and we have a new quality in Raheem, which will help.”
Tuchel has described his preseason as “turbulent,” with a more hands-on approach in transfer dealings as new owner Todd Boehly fills in as sports director.
And the German insists that his team is still in “transition” and that, while Boehly is “ambitious,” he is also “patient.”
Tuchel claims that Arsenal’s 4-0 pre-season thrashing in the United States served as a “wake-up call” for his team.
And, as he prepares to face Everton and Frank Lampard, the Chelsea star he replaced as manager, Tuchel confesses he does not want to put too much pressure on his players by promoting them as title candidates.
“My feeling is, first and foremost, a competition for the top four, and second and foremost, a race for the title,” he stated.
This league is extremely difficult, and if you’re in the title race in March or April, you go for it. But the objective is to ensure that you are among the top four.
“There is no guilt in our challenging for that.”