Thomas Tuchel joked that he picked Romelu Lukaku due to the relentless questions regarding the Chelsea forward before he was booed off by a small section of fans at Stamford Bridge.
The German saw the forward arrive from Inter Milan in the summer for a club-record fee and the Belgian began with a bang in west London, scoring against Arsenal on his first outing. Since then though Lukaku has endured a mixed time of it at Stamford Bridge.
There are doubts as to whether the former Inter Milan star fits into Tuchel’s system, which is why he’s often been named on the bench. Lukaku then did little to endear himself to the Chelsea fans when he talked up a return to Italy, before later apologising.
Tuchel has been vocal in his criticism of the Belgian, whom he has demanded more from on several occasions. That has led to regular questions about Lukaku’s future and the Chelsea boss made light of the fact he’d selected the £97.5m man for Wednesday’s clash with the Gunners.
“You were asking so much about him so finally I put him,” joked Tuchel on Sky Sports. “We want to play with two strikers and Kai is heavily overloaded so was the moment to go with Romelu.” The Belgian scored within 15 minutes of his second Blues debut at Arsenal earlier this season.
The Chelsea boss confessed his positive experiences against the Gunners were a factor in his decision making. He added: “A little bit. If you have a good experience or a good moment against an opponent it can help. It was not the main reason – the main reason was that he deserves to play.”
Lukaku was hauled off in the second half at Stamford Bridge having failed to find the net and with his side trailing 3-2. A section of the Stamford Bridge crowd jeered the Belgian’s exit on the hour mark as his difficult season continues. Tuchel was particularly critical of the Chelsea forward back in January when he was largely ineffective during the loss as Manchester City. The German refused to blame the lack of support given to Lukaku and instead took aim at the Belgian himself.
He said: “Sometimes he needs to do the service. I think he’s included. He had many ball losses without any pressure, many ball losses in very promising circumstances. He had a huge chance so he’s included in this. Of course, we want to serve him but he is part of the team, and the performance up front, he can do much, much better.”
Lukaku has scored 12 times this term, with just five of those coming in the league. Despite his mammoth price tag, the Belgian is not even the club’s leading goalscorer, with Kai Havertz leading the way on 13. Tuchel has backed his forward to come good, however, stating: “You never give up on players, you never give in, and I think Romelu is such a competitor that he feels the same and he behaves in the same way.”