Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel refuses to change his playing style to suit striker Romelu Lukaku, insisting “we cannot just play like Inter”.
Lukaku caused a stir in a controversial interview released on Thursday and Friday, which was initially recorded three weeks ago, as he expressed his unhappiness with his current status at Chelsea.
He also spoke glowingly of former head coach Antonio Conte, who he worked with at Inter, while revealing he would like to return to the Serie A outfit one day.
Tuchel punished Lukaku for his comments by dropping him from his squad to face Liverpool before the pair held talks on Monday and they looked to put the matter aside the following day.
Lukaku has since come out to apologise to all involved at Chelsea, perhaps much to the relief of Tuchel, but the German insisted he will not change his playing style just to suit the forward.
Asked about Lukaku’s comments on Conte and Chelsea’s playing style, Tuchel said: “It works both ways and we do it with every single player, we have a certain formation and principles of how we play.
“I feel he is more impatient than anything else, he wants to be involved more and have big chances more.
“It is hard for him to accept that sometimes the grass does not grow faster when you cut it – in every transfer you have to accept there is a change of environment, culture, club and team-mates.
“There’s a change of playing style and there’s a change of league, he’s not the first player to take some time – he was already scoring while settling down but we were still adapting to each other.
“We cannot just play like Inter plays and hope that will bring the best out of Romelu. They had a fantastic season because Conte is a fantastic coach.
“But I think the system he played at Inter did not only suit Romelu and the second striker Lautaro Martinez, it also fitted the entire squad. If you don’t have five defenders you cannot play with a back five, it’s as easy as that.
“The coaches do what they have to do, Conte played in 3-5-2 in the build-up at Chelsea and 3-4-3 at Inter. Obviously he is adapting to his players and from there implanting his ideas – that is exactly what I do as well.”
The Belgian scored 47 times in 72 league outings with Conte at Inter – his best such tally under any manager – for a return of 0.72 goals per 90 minutes.
That compares to 0.54 goals per 90 minutes for Chelsea across his 13 games since returning, with the striker failing to assist a goal as of yet.
But Tuchel added that no player operating under his stewardship will be treated any differently to the other, with he and his backroom staff understanding it is their job to maximise the potential of their stars.
“It is of course for us to bring out the best of him, find the right position for him and the right connections to understand which movements and playing styles fit to each other,” he continued.
“This is what we do for every single player, it does not matter if the player is expensive or a free agent, or if he’s old or young, it does not change.
“In the end it is on the player, we can just help to fulfil his potential. Sometimes it is faster or slower, but everyone does their very best to bring out the full potential – we are still convinced there is room for improvement.
“That’s why I was surprised, I don’t feel him unhappy, not at all. I was not at all offended as a coach, that’s why I don’t see a big change in our relationship coming.”
Chelsea face Conte’s new side Tottenham on Wednesday as the pair do battle in the EFL Cup semi-final first leg at Stamford Bridge.
Indeed, Conte previously managed the Blues between 2016 and 2018, winning the Premier League and the FA Cup, and Tuchel was incredibly complimentary of the Italian manager.
“He puts them in positions where they are confident so they can fulfil their potential, this is what Antonio Conte is doing on the domestic level to an outstanding impact,” he continued.
“I have nothing but respect for him and I really love to watch his teams play, it will be a pleasure to play against him. We’re fully aware how successful he was with Chelsea, I have no doubt how successful he will be with Tottenham.
“I met him once in a friendly match and we had a nice talk during the warm-up. He knows I appreciate a lot what he is doing, his style and all his energy into his team.
“You can clearly see that in any club that he works, you see it is a Conte team as they defend and attack with all the intensity.
“His teams are very hard to beat, it has always been like this and it will be like that on Wednesday.”
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