Thomas Tuchel has been backed for his decision to deny Romelu Lukaku a regular starting role for Chelsea, even if he “doesn’t quite know what to do with him”.
Lukaku re-joined Chelsea in a club-record transfer from Inter Milan last summer. It marked a Premier League return for the former Everton and Manchester United striker. Chances in his first spell with Chelsea were limited, but he came back to them a much stronger player.
At least, that’s what they expected after consecutive seasons with more than 30 goals for Inter. His spell in Italy culminated in winning Serie A last season.
However, amid their financial difficulties, Inter sold him to Chelsea ahead of the current campaign. While he has scored 12 goals this season, though, it seems Lukaku has been pining for a return to Italy.
He did little to hide the desire in an interview a few months back, after which he has struggled to reclaim his place in Tuchel’s lineup. Instead, the Chelsea boss has often favoured Kai Havertz up front.
That decision has been justified, according to pundit Glenn Hoddle – who believes Tuchel has found Lukaku problematic.
Hoddle said in an interview with The Sun: “Havertz has simply played better than Lukaku, to be honest, and has a bit more subtlety to his game.
“Lukaku is a bit of a problem for Tuchel; he doesn’t quite know what to do with him.
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“Ever since he did that interview with Italian media it has all gone pear-shaped with his form and injuries. He has to look at himself in the mirror and change his mindset.
“Lukaku needs game-time and he isn’t getting it because he doesn’t deserve it. At the moment it is an easy decision for Tuchel. He doesn’t see a reaction from him.
“There are a lot of things happening at the club that need to be sorted right now and Lukaku’s future is one of those.”
Since the start of January, Lukaku has only completed 90 minutes in the Premier League on three occasions. Chelsea have remained in the top four in his absence, though.
Chelsea must keep Tuchel, claims Hoddle
It is testament to the managerial abilities of Tuchel, who has also had to juggle without several key players due to a range of factors at various times.
With that in mind, Hoddle thinks Tuchel deserves to stay on as Chelsea manager, even if they end up without a trophy (on top of the Club World Cup) this season.
He added: “Chelsea have one of the best managers in Europe. Why would you even contemplate letting him go?
“They are third right now and will be in the Champions League next season. And if they don’t win a trophy they still have the right jockey on the horse. It doesn’t always mean the horse will win but on and off the pitch he has been excellent — and he will continue to do that.
“The problem is sometimes as a manager is you have to watch out when you set a standard. Once you do what he did, winning the Champions League inside his first six months in the job, you have to live by that every time.
“It also gives him a bit of leeway and certainly there is no reason why he can’t go and win that again, as well as the FA Cup. They have all their players firing now and all fit. They are still a very good side, and they should be favourites to beat [Real] Madrid.”