Romelu Lukaku was Manchester United’s big money signing of the summer. At £75 million, his arrival had a lot of fans excited to see what he could do.
After starting off fantastically well with seven goals in his first seven Premier League games, his form had dipped dramatically. The Belgian is currently on a run of just one goal in his last 11 appearances. After such a fantastic start, where has it gone wrong for Lukaku?
Where Has it Gone Wrong for Romelu Lukaku?
Style of Play
A big factor towards Lukaku’s downturn in form is the way United set up to play, especially away from home.
United have set up in a counter-attacking style in away matches. Often, they sit back and allow the opposition to have possession with the intention to break quickly. However, this style of play does not compliment Lukaku’s game. He is not adept at playing with his back to goal. This instantly means many of United’s counter-attacking opportunities breakdown because Lukaku fails to bring his teammates into play.
The idea has been in many away matches to get the ball up to Lukaku quickly so he can hold it up and midfield runners can move off him. His first touch is woeful at times and this does not allow effective transition between defence and attack. The poor first touch allows opposition defenders to pounce on him quickly. This then means that any midfield runners who looked to make a move to join in the attack are out of position; United are then on the back foot.
For such a big man, his hold up play needs massive improvement.
Jose Mourinho did look to rectify this in the recent win against Watford. He paired Lukaku with Anthony Martial and it looked a lot more fluent in the attacking areas.
Martial used his pace to get in behind the Watford defence on multiple occasions. This pushed the Watford back-line five yards deeper than they intended and allowed Lukaku more space to try and play his more natural game.
Mourinho may want to think about using this option in future away games if he wants his main striker back in amongst the goals.
Lack of Confidence
A lack of confidence is definitely contributing to Lukaku’s poor recent form.
He’s trying and still giving 100% commitment and effort which is to be admired. In front of goal, though, he gives the impression of someone who is struggling for goals.
A lack of service can possibly be one factor to why his confidence has dropped. Why make the runs if you know the ball is not going to come into the right areas?
While this may have been a credible argument at the beginning of his dip in form, lately it’s been more down to his own short-comings.
Against Basel in the Champions League, the home Premier League game against Brighton and the most recent victory against Watford, Lukaku has been presented with glorious opportunities to score. He failed to hit the net with any of them and looked unsure when in with the goalkeeper.
A perfect example of this was against Watford. Midway through the second half, United broke away and Lukaku received the ball on the corner of the Watford penalty area. What followed was uncertainty and indecisiveness. Several players were making their way into the box but Lukaku failed to pick any of them out. He also failed to test the goalkeeper as what he put in was neither a cross or a shot and the ball just went out for a goal kick.
This action was typical of a man struggling for confidence. If he wants to get back in amongst the goals then he needs to be more decisive in his actions.
While Lukaku is still young and has room for growth, he has a lot of improving to do if he wants to succeed at Manchester United in the long-term.
His hold up play and general play with his back to goal needs a lot of work. A poor first touch contributes to his unsuccessful hold-up play and this can be easily fixed with extra hours in training.
For someone as large as himself he should be able to hold defenders off far better than he does. When facing up to them he is a handful, his direct running and pace cause a nightmare for most defenders. However, with his back to play defenders jump in and intercept the ball from him far too easily.
His heading ability and right foot also need to improve and quickly. Consistently he wants the ball on his favoured left foot and in the air we have seen recently some poor misses from close range; that this also is not his strongest point.
The best strikers are able to make a lot out of nothing and at the moment Lukaku is a striker who seems reliant on having the ball put on a plate for him.
His performances in the big games are also still a major concern. His record against the top six is woeful and he rarely looks like scoring in these games. At a club the size of Manchester United, this simply won’t do in the long term.
While his teammates need to do a bit more to adapt to his overall game, Lukaku, in turn, needs to do more to adapt to a club the size of Manchester United and become a more rounded player.