Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel said on Monday that Romelu Lukaku is not to be laughed at after the £98million ($133million) striker had just seven touches in the weekend’s 1-0 win over Crystal Palace. Last Saturday’s figure is the fewest number of touches recorded by a player who completed the 90 minutes since such data was first recorded in 2003. August, ahead of his squad’s return to Champions League action against Lille in the last 16.
Chelsea won the Champions League last season without Lukaku, but his signing was made with the intention of challenging for the Premier League title.
The 28-year-old has scored just five Premier League goals so far in his second stint at Stamford Bridge, three of which have been in his first three appearances.
The apparent incompatibility between Lukaku and the rest of his team-mates was summed up by the scarcity of his involvement at Selhurst Park as Chelsea escaped with a late win thanks to Hakim Ziyech’s strike.
“It’s not what we want and it’s not what Romelu wants, but it’s not the time to laugh and joke with him,” Tuchel said.
“He is in the spotlight and we will protect him because he is our player.”
Tuchel defended allegations that Lukaku is not adjusting his favored 3-4-3 system.
Lukaku was dropped on January 2 for a crucial clash against Liverpool after expressing frustrations with Tuchel’s playing style in an interview with Sky Italia in December.
However, the German coach pointed to the struggles of other strikers at Chelsea in recent seasons prior to his arrival such as Fernando Torres, Alvaro Morata and Timo Werner to prove his point that Lukaku is not an isolated case.
“There’s even a history of strikers struggling a bit at Chelsea, so it’s not the easiest place in the world for strikers, but I’m not sure why it is,” he added.
“We’ve played a lot of games together all year where we created a lot of chances but struggled a little bit with the conversion. Right now it’s a time where we’re struggling to create too many big chances for our strikers and I think this a normal period is in a long season.
“We are well aware of it, but like most time in football there is no one way to solve a problem. It is a very complex sport and we try to keep playing with the belief in team performance .”
Despite Lukaku’s struggles, Chelsea are a strong favorite to reach the last eight of the Champions League against the French champions.
Lille are 11th in Ligue 1 after failing to reach last season’s heights when they shocked Paris Saint-Germain to claim the title.
Chelsea have fallen 13 points behind Manchester City in the battle for the Premier League but have a perfect record of reaching four finals in knockout competitions under Tuchel.
“We shouldn’t think too much about how others might see us as the favorites against Lille,” Tuchel said.
“We are confident to put in a good performance as we are performing at a high level in knockout matches, cup competitions and Champions League matches.”
(This story was not edited by DailyExpertNews staff and was generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)
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