Romelu Lukaku- reborn at Inter Milan
At Inter Milan:
Most Minutes played (2143 minutes)
Top goalscorer with 17 league goals
Highest average match rating (7.43)
At Manchester United, Lukaku played 4999 minutes for them and scored 28 goals, while at Inter Milan he has 17 goals in just 2143 minutes a huge improvement in goals per minute ratio.
Within this piece we will look at some potential reasons Lukaku didn’t seem to fit into Manchester United’s system and what makes him a perfect fit for Inter Milan.
One of the main reason is due to the formation Manchester United used primarily a 4231/433 with Lukaku normally leading the line, However leading the line requires certain traits such as pace, power, willingness to stretch play, the ability to bring others into play Lukaku ticks all these boxes so why didn’t it work out.
One of the disadvantages of playing up front on your own is running the channels something that Lukaku is more than capable of doing but this limits his main threat that is his work in the penalty are.
Again, picking the ball up wide as the defending team this is the perfect position to allow him to work in forcing play wide, protecting the middle and also reducing his huge aerial presence in the box. Defender A shows down the line and defender B prevents him coming inside.
Again leading the line forced to pick the ball up in a wide area with Martial the areal presence a potential miss match against commanding centre backs, From a defences prospective they have this potential threat limited as Lukaku has a 1 v 1 scenario but sufficient cover if he does beat his man. Martial is tightly man marked either side so not likely he will be able to wriggle free ultimately this move brakes down. Ideally the roles would be reversed and Martial would be ware Lukaku is.
Another example, Lukaku again tight to touchline as you can see the defender is showing him down the line with Kante screening 2 potential passing options this forces Lukaku to try and take on his man and work his way into the box or produce a cross but again the aerial dominance over Martial in the box makes the danger very small.
Different game, same scenario Lukaku picking the ball up in a wide area but from an attacking prospective outnumbered 4v2 leaving Lukaku well isolated the distance between the front line is to great and can be easily cut out by the good positioning from the defence.
From a defensive prospective this again is an area ware they can feel the threat is not as high aerial and have sufficient numbers to be in control of the situation.
Showing Lukaku down the line but also cutting off any potential cut backs makes it difficult to create a shooting opportunity resulting in getting a corner from this move.
Lukaku again leading the line finds himself in a wide area but is being doubled up on restricting his ability to cut inside and just showing him down the line maybe because they know that his crossing ability isn’t as dangerous as his presence within the box.
Also, from a defensive prospective in the centre of the pitch they have outnumbered the attacking side resulting in an attempted cross going straight out for a goal kick.
Knowing that Lukaku is more dominant on his left foot defender A prevents him cutting inside and defender B forces him to try and go down the line limit his potential to use his left foot, by forcing him wide protecting the middle of the pitch reduces his ability to hurt you.
Antone Conte favours a 352 formation this does still require all the traits talked about but the 2 wing backs provide the width reducing the amount of time Lukaku has to be in these zones of the pitch resulting in him being able to use his strength and power in areas of the pitch that he can course the most problems.
Also having a front 2 in Martinez and Lukaku create close support to play in and off each other but knowing that his main role is to work in between the width of the posts reduces defensive responsibility he has.
Player A is the Right sided full back further evidence that Lukaku can operate centrally and close to striker partner.
Player A right full back with Lukaku spending much more time centrally ware by he can have the most impact and again close to striker partner.
Even when counter attacking not only are the front 2 close together allowing much smoother transition but the area of the pitch they are attacking straight through the heart of the defending team with the knowledge that their wing backs will be bombing forward offering the support in wider areas allowing for the 2 strikers to work within the centre of the pitch.
Lukaku link up play and interchanging are more evident at Inter Milan this is down to him knowing he has options either side of him and also in front and behind so is very rarely isolated when is possession of the football.
With having the options either side of him do to working mainly in the centre of the pitch really shows how intelligent a player he is creating triangles making it very hard to mark or try and play the offside trap moving opponents out of their position creating gaps to exploit.
Just to put this into prospective while leading the line for Manchester united the support in attack was very rarely evident, Huge space in the final third with no support.
Counterattack opportunity although Lukaku has the ability to stretch and produce something here support is so far behind slowing the attack down allowing the opponents to regroup.
A lack of forward options although ball retention is paramount split seconds make a huge difference being able to receive the ball facing the goal is ware Lukaku does his best work. With his back to goal means the forward move is slowed right down allowing opponents to get back into a defensive shape.