Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer defended Romelu Lukaku’s performance against Crystal Palace and insisted his struggles were down to Chelsea’s tactical approach.
The Belgian was isolated throughout the Blues’ 1-0 win at Selhurst Park on Saturday afternoon and touched the ball just seven times in 90 minutes, with one of them being kick-off.
Speaking on Match of the Day, Lineker and Shearer both sympathised with Lukaku and suggested Chelsea were not play to their record signing’s strengths.
Romelu Lukaku touched the ball just seven times against Crystal Palace on Saturday
‘It’s clear that they [Chelsea] aren’t working on things on the training ground as they are not doing it during the game for him [Lukaku] or for the team,’ the former Newcastle centre-forward said.
Lineker was even more scathing, adding: ‘When I played, if I wasn’t getting much of the ball, if I wasn’t getting service, I would be hammering people.’
According to Opta, Lukaku completed just four of his six attempted passes on Saturday and his 66.7 percent completion rate was the worst of any player in Chelsea’s starting XI.
The Belgian cut an isolated figure throughout the 90 minutes at Selhurst Park
The Belgian did not manage a single shot throughout the game and his seven combined touches were the fewest in a single Premier League for a player who has played the full 90 minutes since the 2003-04 season, when this particular was first made available.
Speaking after the game, however, Thomas Tuchel dismissed the suggestion his tactical system was to blame for Lukaku’s struggles.
‘No, no, it’s not about the system,’ the Chelsea boss said.
Prompting Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer to defend him on Match of the Day
‘Well, it is what it is. But for him, there is no change of system because it’s the same attacking structure.’
Chelsea shelled out a club record fee £97.5million to bring the 28-year-old back to Stamford Bridge in the summer after he scored 64 goals in 95 games in all competitions in two seasons for Inter Milan.
Of those, a combined 47 came in Serie A, with Lukaku’s tally of 24 last season proving crucial in Inter winning the Scudetto.
The former Everton and Manchester United striker appeared set to replicate his form in the Premier League, as he hit the ground running, scoring three goals in the first three Premier League games of the season.
But Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel insisted the Blues’ tactical system isn’t to blame
After being sidelined with an ankle injury throughout November, however, Lukaku struggled to regain his place in the starting XI and admitted not seeing eye-to-eye with Tuchel.
In an explosive interview with Sky Italy in December, Chelsea’s record signing openly questioned Tuchel’s tactics and admitted he would have been happy to remain at Inter Milan.
‘I think I’m in a moment where the boss could play me a little more but I have to respect his decisions, continue to work and wait for my time to come,’ he said.
Lukaku fired Inter Milan to the Serie A title but has failed to show the same form for Chelsea
The Belgian criticised Tuchel’s tactics and decision in an interview with Sky in Italy
‘We’re trying to find a middle ground where we can meet, a system which can help the team perform at its best because right now we’re in a complicated situation.’
Following the interview, Lukaku was dropped for the game against Liverpool on January 2, before issuing an official apology to the club.
He was subsequently reinstated in the team for both legs of the Carabao Cup semi-final against Tottenham and he has started each of Chelsea’s last 10 games in all competitions.
Tuchel, meanwhile, suggested Lukaku’s frustration stemmed from being impatient, but acknowledged Chelsea had to play to his strengths.
‘I think it’s impatience,’ the German said last month.
‘He wants big chances and it is hard for him to accept that sometimes the grass does not grow faster when you pull it.
‘He is emotional. So it’s our job to bring out the best of him, to find the right position, to find the right systems. This is what we do for every single player.’