Romelu Lukaku disappears after touching the ball just SIX times in open play against Crystal Palace… he needs to feel loved to thrive at Chelsea, but any lingering resentment from his infamous interview may unsettle him

  • Romelu Lukaku struggled to find his feet after joining Chelsea last summer
  • Goals haven’t flowed in for the Belgium striker in the past six months
  • He hit a new low as he only touched the ball seven times on Saturday
  • Thomas Tuchel must now be seriously worried about the striker’s form and attitude

When reflecting on the first six months of Romelu Lukaku’s return to Chelsea, it’s important to apply some semblance of balance.

It would be easy to pass judgment quickly, especially after his performance against Crystal Palace on Saturday – which was undoubtedly one of the worst in Premier League history.

It wasn’t just the fact that Lukaku had just six touches in open play (seven with kick-off) the entire game at Selhurst Park – breaking the record for fewest involvements in a single match Premier League for a player. who completed the full game.

Chelsea’s Romelu Lukaku only touched the ball seven times against Crystal Palace on Saturday

It wasn’t just the fact that he failed to register a single shot or only managed four successful passes throughout the game.

It is his behavior that should worry Thomas Tuchel the most. Saturday was so far removed from what a Lukaku performance should look like that alarm bells have to ring.

There were times against Palace where the Belgian didn’t seem willing to commit to the tough yards. He should have done more than get on the ball – the Lukaku that Chelsea paid £97.5million for would have done that.

The question therefore arises: what is eating away at the 28-year-old? The fact that he hasn’t scored in the Premier League since December won’t help.

Chelsea managed to win the game but Lukaku's behavior was questionable at Selhurst Park

Chelsea managed to win the game but Lukaku’s behavior was questionable at Selhurst Park

His tally of 10 goals in all club competitions isn’t great, but it’s not great either and it’s only natural that Chelsea expect more from his record signing. At this stage of last season, Tammy Abraham – now at Roma – had scored 12 goals for the Blues.

Lukaku scored two of Chelsea’s three goals in Abu Dhabi to clinch the club’s first Club World Cup triumph. It would therefore be unfair to claim that this decision was a total disaster.

Any lingering resentment over the fallout from his now infamous interview with Sky Sport Italia could unsettle him.

Either way, it’s clearly becoming a problem for Chelsea and Tuchel.

With concerns over player fatigue within his squad heading into the end of the season, it’s a problem the Chelsea manager could do without.

Thomas Tuchel may be increasingly concerned about Lukaku's current level of performance

Thomas Tuchel may be increasingly concerned about Lukaku’s current level of performance

Lukaku is the kind of player who responds to an arm around his shoulder. He needs to feel loved, whether Tuchel is ready to give his uncomfortable striker the admiration he needs is another matter.

Saturday’s narrow win at Selhurst Park, courtesy of Hakim Ziyech’s 89th-minute winner, kept Chelsea’s slim title hopes alive – especially after Manchester City’s loss to Tottenham.

And given that they have the Carabao Cup final on Sunday, their Champions League defense starts again tomorrow and they are still in the FA Cup, there is still time for Lukaku’s season to turn great.

What happens between now and summer is likely to dictate how Chelsea and the striker approach the end of the season.

An exit seems unlikely. Chelsea won’t get their money back on Lukaku. Likewise, the striker won’t want what would be construed as a failed season at Stamford Bridge on his CV.

But with Erling Haaland, Kylian Mbappe and Harry Kane available this summer, it would be remiss of Chelsea not to consider other options if Lukaku continues to stutter.

If Lukaku continues to struggle, Chelsea could look for alternatives, including Harry Kane

If Lukaku continues to struggle, Chelsea could look for alternatives, including Harry Kane



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