Thomas Tuchel has insisted he has no concerns about the form of striker Romelu Lukaku following his slow start to life back at Stamford Bridge.
A £97.5m signing in the summer, Lukaku netted three in his first three Premier League appearances of the campaign but has not scored in his last eight, leaving him with a return of just five goals from 16 outings in all competitions.
The 28-year-old has also been battling an injury, with his last four league games coming as a substitute while he builds his fitness back up, and Tuchel warned critics that his injury status must be taken into account.
“We brought him in for consistency but, like it or not, there is adaptation going on – if you play in Italy or England it’s a very, very different game,” Tuchel said (via The Times).
“When he was injured we were playing good, we were scoring, we put the intensity level up. We found other solutions because we had to find solutions, and then it was about fitness.
“He was in training and was protecting himself, not with full trust in the ankle. Even if he would never, ever admit I could see it. You need to be patient. He wants to come back, there’s a fight going on out there every three days and nobody will say, ‘OK we play now with less intensity because Romelu needs it, and we have players who come back from injury.’ Nobody will do this so there is no chance and we have to pay tribute to that.
“If there is a high-intensity game every three days it is very, very hard to come back from injury no matter what your name it. This is the only concern. We are all the time breaking our heads about when these players can come back. In which moment and for how long? With only three changes [substitutes] it makes things very complicated.”
Lukaku is expected to feature in Chelsea‘s meeting with Everton on Thursday, as are returning duo Trevoh Chalobah and N’Golo Kante, both of whom have been out injured recently.
On Kante, Tuchel added: “He is there to scare the Everton bench every time he stands up and I call his name out. He is superman. When he is on the pitch he gives you that feeling, maybe the stadium, he reassures everybody else on the pitch that we have some extra force there, some extra gear, and that’s why he is so important.
“Do you know how often I am [tempted] to just catapult him on to the pitch even if he is here at the training ground in the swimming pool or doing a water session because he is still in pain? I am asking everyone if he can play the next day, because who wants to play without him? Nobody.
“Of course we push him and we try to push him but things take their time and if a player feels pain, if a player feels discomfort, I have learnt that it makes no sense to push him. It needs to be a mix between pushing and also understanding that it takes confidence, belief and trust from the player that he is not in fear. Sometimes you have to accept it, even if you don’t like it.”