Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel is refusing to give up on Romelu Lukaku and tells Sky Sports it is a matter of pride for him to get the striker back to his goalscoring best at Stamford Bridge.
Lukaku finds himself as an understudy to Kai Havertz up front less than nine months after becoming Chelsea’s most expensive signing ever in the summer after re-joining from Inter Milan for £ 97.5m.
The former Manchester United and Everton striker has managed just five goals in 20 appearances on his return to the Premier League – he has never finished a campaign in England with less than 12.
But Tuchel has faith that he and Lukaku, Belgium’s record goalscorer, can find a formula to reignite the 28-year-old’s career in west London.
“It is pride for me and it should hopefully also be pride for him – and it is I guess,” Tuchel told Sky Sports News.
“This is how we feel, we feel things getting personal then if we don’t get it right and I feel it with any player. If we can’t get the best out of a player for the team it feels, personally for me I feel it and I don’t want to have that feeling so.
“You never give up on players, you never give up, and I think Romelu is such a competitor that he feels the same and he behaves in the same way.”
Why has Lukaku struggled?
Tuchel refused to pull any punches when assessing Lukaku’s performances over the past few weeks ahead of the visit of Arsenal in the Premier League on Wednesday, live on Sky Sports.
The German admits injuries have played a role in Lukaku’s failure to meet expectations, but says he requires some fortune or momentum to galvanize his performances.
“All he needs is that spark,” Tuchel said at his news conference on Tuesday. “He maybe would’ve been a natural starter against Crystal Palace given the minutes Kai (Havertz) has played.
“But after a period of injury he lacked the fitness for matches. I don’t point the finger at him, it’s just a fact … Romelu should have had a goal against Real Madrid and Crystal Palace, but if he plays we need all that he has. “
Merse: Lukaku not in sync at Chelsea
Sky Sports pundit Paul Merson:
“Even when Lukaku came on in the semi-final on Sunday, he’s just not in sync with what Chelsea are trying to do.
“In the last five minutes at Wembley the ball went across the six-yard box three times. They are three tap-ins, and they could have had a hat-trick. However, he’s pulling out to the penalty spot and another one was easier to score than miss.
“I just don’t think he’s singing off the same hymn sheet at the moment. It’s just a situation where he’s not in sync with his team-mates and it’s showing on the pitch.”
No Lukaku, no problem – how Havertz has replaced Lukaku
Lukaku was signed from Inter Milan for £ 97.5m last August and was seen as the final piece of the jigsaw that would allow Thomas Tuchel to solve the puzzle of how to end Manchester City and Liverpool’s domestic dominance.
But despite striking four times in his first four games – which included a goal in an impressive second Chelsea debut at Arsenal and two against Aston Villa – the goals quickly dried up for the Belgium.
Lukaku has continued to underwhelm to such an extent that he now finds himself behind Kai Havertz in the pecking order to be the No 9 at Stamford Bridge.
Lukaku did make an appearance from the bench in the first leg against Real but, with his side two goals down and in desperate need of inspiration, he missed a glorious chance just minutes after coming on, a scene that perfectly summed up how his return to the club he supported as a teenager has gone sideways.
For a few months now, Lukaku has been forced to watch from the guidelines, where he may contemplate where things have gone wrong for him this season, why Havertz has been able to succeed where he has failed, and whether his return to west London was in fact doomed from the start.
Chelsea’s fixture schedule:
April 20 – Arsenal (h) Premier League, live on Sky Sports
April 24 – West Ham (h) Premier League, live on Sky Sports
April 28 – Man United (a) Premier League, live on Sky Sports
May 1 – Everton (a) Premier League, live on Sky Sports
May 7 – Wolves (h) Premier League
May 11 – Leeds (a) Premier League, live on Sky Sports
May 14 – Liverpool (Wembley) FA Cup final
May 19 – Leicester (h) Premier League
May 22 – Watford (h) Premier League
Arsenal’s remaining fixtures
April 20 – Chelsea (a), live on Sky Sports
April 23 – Man Utd (h)
May 1 – West Ham (a), live on Sky Sports
May 8 – Leeds (h), live on Sky Sports
May 12 – Tottenham (a), live on Sky Sports
May 16 – Newcastle (a)live on Sky Sports
May 22 – Everton (h)
Watch Chelsea vs Arsenal live on the Sky Sports Premier League and Main Event from 7pm on Wednesday; kick-off 7.45pm