Ahead of his side’s Premier League meeting with cross-city rivals Arsenal at the weekend, Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel has spoken on new signing Romelu Lukaku and the mammoth amount of goals he expects from the club record signing.
Upon taking his seat at a prematch press conference, Tuchel was immediately asked if Lukaku is ready to face the Gunners.
“We have one more training session to go but the week was a heavy load,” the German began.
“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,” he confirmed.
“I believe everyone needs a role,” Tuchel continued, when pushed on whether Lukaku was the missing piece of the puzzle in his Champions League-winning outfit now chasing domestic glory.
“The guys who left us played an important role in the last campaign and it’s not nice to let them go. But it is sometimes important because everyone needs a role and a situation that needs fighting for.
“Is Romelu the missing piece? We hope [so], 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 [on], it’s our job to push ourselves to the limit.”
Regarding how many successful strikes he wants from his frontman, the German joked: “50 or 60 before winter!”
“No, we will set a clear target in the season,” he corrected himself.
Then probed to name what his £97.5 million ($132.8 million) charge can offer, Tuchel said: “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,” Tuchel finished on the 28-year-old.
Elsewhere, Lukaku has admitted to Sky Sports that his first spell at Chelsea, where he failed to register a single goal before being shipped off to the likes of West Brom and Everton on loan, “hurt” him as a Blues fan.
“Yeah, it did. I wrote a piece about last summer for the first time about what football can do sometimes on the mental side,” he pointed out.
“That’s something that I had on the back of my shoulders for many years. It was a source of motivation at the time, but [I was] also asking myself questions like ‘what went wrong?'”
Describing moving to Italy, following another failure at Manchester United, as the “best thing I could’ve done at the time”, he credits former Chelsea boss Antonio Conte with getting his career back on track at Inter Milan.
“There were questions. I knew I had the ability, but why not? It was always just not. When I think about my performances with Everton, missed penalties, or United games or whatever. Or when I was here [at Chelsea] and I’d get an opportunity and it wouldn’t go well – it was always just not. Maybe it was because I put too much [pressure on myself],” Lukaku said.
“When I went to Italy, it’s where, under the guidance of Antonio Conte, I learnt what it took to go and break that barrier. When we did win [the Serie A title] last year, you could see the emotions on my face.”
“For me, it was ten years of hard work, with a lot of ups and downs, but in the end, it was good. Coming into my prime years, I know myself and I know what it takes. I know how to be a leader and what it takes to help my team,” he went on.
“Technically, I have improved because before, [playing with my] back to goal was not really my thing. I didn’t like it, I didn’t enjoy it. I’m more of a guy that likes to run in behind, find tight spaces and take players on.
“But as soon as I started getting better with my back-to-goal play, it was better for me because I could score more goals but I could also create more for my teammates, so my assists went up and I became a more complete player.
Starting with Sunday’s assignment at the Emirates then, it remains to be seen whether Lukaku can bring his Serie A form to the Premier League and kick on in the English top flight for once and for all.