Thomas Tuchel has said he is thinking about resting Romelu Lukaku after suggesting the Chelsea forward’s goal drought is down to mental fatigue.
Lukaku was regarded as the final piece in the jigsaw after joining Chelsea from Internazionale last summer but his performances have dipped after an encouraging start. The £97.5m forward has failed to score in his past six appearances and his sluggish form is a concern for Tuchel, who must decide whether to give the Belgium international a chance to rediscover his rhythm when the European champions host Malmö in the Champions League on Wednesday night.
“We are in the process of adapting to each other,” Chelsea’s manager said. “I feel Romelu is a bit overplayed. I think he played in too many competitions over the summer. He played the Nations League and he is a fantastic athlete and such a competitive guy that he never takes it easy.
“He wanted to have a good outcome for the European Championship with Belgium and now in the Nations League it was a huge match for him. If that does not work well he always puts it on his shoulders.
“I feel him mentally tired. Not that we have a huge concern, just that he does not fully enjoy playing without a second thought. He is overplayed a little bit. It is difficult to judge whether he needs a break or is it better to keep him on the pitch?”
Belgium exited Euro 2020 in the last eight, and France reached the Nations League final at their expense a fortnight ago. The worry is that Tuchel, who added that players are being asked to play too many games, was employing diversionary tactics by referring to Lukaku’s international exploits.
There could be another explanation for the 28-year-old’s struggles. Lukaku, who scored four goals in his first four appearances for Chelsea, has not been on the same wavelength as his teammates recently and Tuchel was asked whether replacing his 3-4-3 system with something more attacking could increase his side’s threat.
Chelsea Mendy; Azpilicueta, Silva, Rüdiger; James, Kanté, Jorginho, Chilwell; Havertz, Mount; Lukaku.
Subs Arrizabalaga, Bettinelli, Bergstrom, Alonso, Christensen, Sarr, Chalobah, Saúl, Kovacic, Loftus-Cheek, Barkley, Hudson-Odoi, Ziyech, Werner.
Injured Pulisic (ankle, 23 Oct)
Malmö Dahlin; Larsson, Moisander, Nielsen, Brorsson, Berget; Christiansen, Rakip, Innocent; Birmancevic, Colak.
Subs Diawara, Ellborg, Eile, Olsson, Peña, Gall, Nalic, Nanasi, Gwargis, Abubakari, Björqvist, Rieks.
Doubt Rieks (personal reasons)
Injured Bejimo (shoulder), Knudsen, Toivonen, Lewicki (all knee) Suspended Ahmedhodzic
“We can take this step when we are fully convinced and when it’s the moment to put in more offensive players, but it’s also about balance,” he said. “This game is about balance and we found a balance. There are also a lot of reasons to stay in our structure.”
“There is nothing to worry about in terms of details and that we are hiding details,” Tuchel said. “He has had some setbacks from pain. Not from a major injury or complications. It is simply the pain in the ankle that disturbs him.
“Once these players with quick movements feel this pain and they are not free in the movement the recovery is not happening. He was so close to come to team training last week and had a little setback.”