After a promising start to his second life at Stamford Bridge, the Belgium international has encountered a stumbling block, which has coincided with back-to-back defeats.
Thomas Tuchel has dismissed Antonio Conte’s claim that Chelsea is yet to figure out how to handle Romelu Lukaku correctly, while the Blues boss admits his predecessor is correct on some points.
Following a promising start to his second spell at Stamford Bridge, the Belgian international has struggled, with his side losing to Manchester City and Juventus during that period. But now the German has responded.
What has been said?
“He [Conte] was obviously not on the telly after the Tottenham game,” Tuchel was quoted by Chelsea’s official website ahead of his side’s clash with Southampton this weekend.
“Of course, if you watch this game against Juventus isolated, he is right on that point and he’s obviously in the TV studio to analyze this one game – so he’s right, no discussion about it.
“But it’s not a general thing. If you watch the other games he’s maybe not right. I don’t feel offended. I even saw [him on TV] while I was showering before the match in the hotel.”
German acknowledges link-up vitality
Tuchel further pointed to the praise Lukaku and his squadmates commanded pre-game from pundits as a sign of their efforts, but admitted his side’s link-up play has suffered in recent weeks.
The lack of Mason Mount ruled out of the defeats to City and Juventus through injury, has proved costly, having already proven his worth for club and country as an integral link in the attacking chain.
“Juventus made [Lukaku] isolated,” the former PSG boss added. “It felt like seven players around him all the time in the box. They did it well and they did it in their style. We have to accept it.
“It’s not a general problem. We need to look at the games very individually. Any striker in the world would be isolated if we play so poorly in transition as we did against Man City.”
The bigger picture
Having suffered rare back-to-back defeats for his tenure at Stamford Bridge, Tuchel will be keen to flip the switch and get back to winning ways against the Saints on Saturday.
Amid a congested top-four battle, the German will know that any slip-up is likely to be punished by rivals such as City, Liverpool, and Manchester United, among others.
The return of Mount, who is expected to feature before heading off for the international break with England, will be a timely boost to crafting attacking chances for the hosts at Stamford Bridge.