Thomas Tuchel urged everyone not to mock Romelu Lukaku after Chelsea’s record signing set a record for the fewest touches ever in a full Premier League game.
The German admitted Chelsea is a tough club for strikers to succeed as Lukaku threatens to join Andriy Shevchenko and Fernando Torres in the band of expensive underachievers at Stamford Bridge.
Lukaku struck in the semi-final and final of the Club World Cup but the £98 million man has not scored in his last six games against English clubs and only touched the ball seven times in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Crystal Palace, and one of those was a kick-off.
The previous record holder was a goalkeeper, Leicester’s Kasper Schmeichel, and the Belgian’s anonymous display prompted mockery.
But Tuchel said: “The data is out there and the data speaks a certain language. It is sometimes like this with strikers if they struggle with self-confidence and struggle to get involved against a good defensive side. It is not what we want or what Romelu wants but it is not a time to laugh about him or make jokes about him.”
Lukaku has only scored 10 goals in 28 games since returning to Stamford Bridge from Inter Milan last summer, bringing back memories of previous big buys who were expected to be prolific in the Chelsea attack.
Crystal Palace vs Chelsea player ratings
The former Ballon d’Or winner Shevchenko only scored 22 goals in 77 games for Chelsea while Torres, who cost a then record £50 million, took 903 minutes of football to open his account and only ended up with 20 goals in 110 Premier League matches.
“There is even a history of strikers struggling at Chelsea so it is not the easiest place in the world for strikers, I don’t know exactly why,” Tuchel said.
He said Chelsea have had to adjust after the loss of his first-choice wing-backs, Reece James and Ben Chilwell, to injury, and believes Lukaku has not had enough service recently.
“We have many games where we created many chances and struggled a bit in the conversion,” he added. “Now we struggle to create too many big chances for our strikers.”
Chelsea could welcome back one of their creators on Tuesday, with Mason Mount potentially on the bench against Lille. The England international could then be in contention for Sunday’s Carabao Cup final against Liverpool but Callum Hudson-Odoi is likely to miss the clash with the French champions.
However, Tuchel ignored talk of the Wembley clash with Liverpool, adding: “Now is the moment to be super focused on every match and don’t worry about the big picture.”
Lille are labouring in 11th place in Ligue 1 and losing manager Christophe Galtier and key players Mike Maignan, Boubakary Soumare and Jonathan Ikone.
But Tuchel, whose Paris Saint-Germain team were champions in France the previous season, said: “They were very competitive when I was in Paris. The quality of the coach was exceptional and you could tell they had the quality to fight high up the table but then they lost players and the coach in the summer so there has been a huge change.”
A meeting with French opposition is particularly meaningful for Edouard Mendy. Born in France, the Senegal goalkeeper has already won the African Cup of Nations and the Club World Cup this month.
“A lot of good things happened the last days and weeks,” he said. Formerly of Cherbourg, he and N’Golo Kante first met in the French lower leagues and became Champions League winners together. “It is like a dream to find another player in the same club who played in the same division as you,” he said. “It is a beautiful thing to find him here.”