Chelsea were wrong to drop Romelu Lukaku – players should be praised, not punished, for speaking honestly


The Belgium international has never been like that. Chelsea know it; Tuchel knows it. It is part of Lukaku’s character. It is part of his motivation. It is what makes him who he is. He has spoken openly before – at Chelsea, at Everton, at Manchester United and at Inter – and he really does have every right to express his opinion.

Lukaku was not disrespectful in what he said. Instead his biggest crime was trying to have it both ways – in asking for forgiveness from the Inter fans while having left the club and being somewhat disingenuous about the situation he walked into at Chelsea.

If he did not know the way Tuchel operates and how the coach wants his teams to line up and play then Lukaku is far less of a student of the game that he claims he is.

Similarly on his return to Chelsea he did state that he wanted to spend the rest of his career there – “I am here for life” he unwisely said and bought into the narrative of having “unfinished business”… so it is self-serving to tell an Italian audience that, actually, he fancies a move back to Inter and to secure it while he remains in his prime.

But maybe it was also an insight into the frustration he felt at Chelsea and, for that, he is to be commended.

At the same time it should be remembered that Chelsea made all the running in signing Lukaku who made no secret of the fact that he was happy at Inter, had rebuffed the initial approach and would have stayed at the club. That changed with the departure of head coach Antonio Conte, with Inter in financial difficulties persuading them that it was best he was sold and with the persistence shown by Chelsea.

The bottom line is it just all feels a bit unnecessary to slap a player down in this manner. Was what he said really that awful and requiring such a response? Footballers do have very strange existences. Worlds in which they are paid extraordinary amounts of money and fawned over but also can be reprimanded like naughty schoolboys and basically told to shut up.

Personally I would always support candour. Football is just a game, albeit a game that means so much, but it should also be a game where the participants – like the fans, pundits and journalists – can talk openly about what they think and what they feel. Do not close that down. In fact if what Lukaku said was really so hurtful may it be humbly suggested that those who are offended grow a slightly thicker skin.

Stop moaning about Var – all the key decisions in Arsenal-Man City were right

So which of the big decisions in Arsenal’s tumultuous defeat to Manchester City did referee Stuart Attwell and Var Jarred Gillett get so wrong that they needed to be so horribly vilified?

The Martin Odegaard penalty incident? The Bernardo Silva one? The red card to Gabriel? The fact is that with each of those big calls the officials got it right. And if any were wrong it was a debatable call. It was not a huge mistake.

Odegaard’s could have been a penalty, as he was challenged by Ederson, but it was not a “clear and obvious error” so there was no need for Attwell – who did not award it – to go to the pitch-side monitor.


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