Thomas Tuchel believes Romelu Lukaku will give Chelsea something they were “missing” after hinting he could make his second debut for the club this weekend.
After kicking off their season with victory in the Super Cup against Villarreal and a comfortable win over Crystal Palace in their Premier League opener, a London derby now awaits Chelsea. They visit Arsenal on Sunday for one of the early standout fixtures of the English football calendar.
Their preparation for the game has received a timely boost from Tuchel, whose latest comments on club-record signing Lukaku were certainly encouraging.
The Belgian striker recently returned to the club from Inter Milan, having become a much more complete player than the one that left them in 2014. He is yet to play since making his return, but Tuchel suggested it was “likely” that he can be involved in some capacity against Arsenal.
The coach said at a press conference: “We have one more training session to go but the week was a heavy load. He was with the group with the late starters, so it was an overload week so far.
“Today was low intensity and tomorrow we will have an important session before the match. We hope he will be on the pitch on Sunday and it looks likely.”
Asked if Lukaku was the missing piece of the puzzle for a side that won the Champions League last season but came fourth in the Premier League, Tuchel gave a positive response.
He said: “I believe everyone needs a role. The guys who left us played an important role in the last campaign and it’s not nice to let them go. But it sometimes important because everyone needs a role and a situation that needs fighting for.
“Is Romelu the missing piece? We hope but at the same time we try to find solutions to any questions asked in games. We want still have a strong squad and a squad that makes a team effort.
“Romelu is that kind of personality and profile that we were missing up front. From now, it’s our job to push ourselves to the limit.”
Elaborating on the qualities he will bring, Tuchel added: “I think with his physical power, being so fast, being a true goalscorer, I think it’s a unique and new experience for me as a coach.
“He’s a nice guy. We’re a good group and it’s important to be a good and democratic group. This is a good fit for us. Let’s hope it stays that positive.”
Lukaku scored 30 goals in all competitions last season, helping Inter Milan win Serie A. It was the second consecutive season in which he broke the 30-goal barrier, something he had never achieved before in England despite coming close on a few occasions.
Tuchel was asked if Lukaku had a goal target for his return to English football and answered in comical fashion.
“50 or 60 before winter! No we will set a clear target later in the season.”
Tuchel press conference confirms Chalobah plans
After the addition of Lukaku, Chelsea have been looking into a deal for defender Jules Kounde. However, their plans may have changed following the rise to prominence of Trevoh Chalobah.
The academy graduate scored his first Premier League goal after starting as part of the back three against Crystal Palace.
It had seemed he would be set for another loan this season, but his recent form has convinced Tuchel to change his plans.
Tuchel confirmed: “He did a fantastic pre-season with us. He is a top player and a top character, he took his chance very impressively.
“He played very good matches in pre-season, performed for 120 minutes against Villarreal and another strong 90 minutes against Crystal Palace.
“It’s logical that he stays here. He is a guy we want to keep and this is his status.
“It’s not a gift, it’s what he deserves for now. It’s a good situation and a good situation for us. I don’t know what it means for his contract.”
Chalobah’s goal came from a foray forward, which has led some to foresee a future in midfield for the 22-year-old.
Tuchel responded to the hypothesis: “At one time we will maybe try it. There is some stuff to improve at this level when you have to open spaces so quickly; it’s a big difference between playing in midfield and defence.
“Hopefully we don’t need to try it but we have this in mind. We spoke on the pitch about it because he was doing a good ball possession in the middle of the pitch as he could maybe be the fourth solution. Now isn’t the time to confuse him and try too many roles as he’s settled into the back three.”