Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel has admitted that defensive considerations played a big part in Romelu Lukaku coming on at halftime against West Ham on Saturday.
Tuchel says the Belgian was not ready to play 45 minutes after a slow recovery from an ankle injury but he still opted to use him as Kai Havertz‘s replacement because he feared the Hammers’ threat from set-pieces:
“It’s my fault. I don’t think he is ready for 45 minutes physically but still we decided to bring him on for his height because we lost Kai. Kai had a crucial role in defending set-pieces, which is a huge threat from West Ham, so this is on me. I took the decision so it’s my responsibility.”
Lukaku was criticised by some supporters after the match for his poor performance at the London Stadium but he clearly wasn’t fit. As Tuchel has acknowledged, the striker should not have been asked to play all of the second half.
It will be interesting to see whether the 28-year-old will be given another runout versus Zenit St Petersburg on Wednesday evening. There is nothing riding on the match, other than who finishes top of the Champions League group, but Lukaku could certainly do with some more game time in order to get back to full match fitness.