Thomas Tuchel was unimpressed by the performance of Romelu Lukaku after Chelsea lost 1-0 to Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.
A stunning goal from Kevin De Bruyne sent Pep Guardiola’s City 13 points clear of Chelsea in the Premier League table, with the Blues having won just four of their last 12 league games.
Lukaku cut a lone figure for much of Saturday’s game, having just 21 touches – the fewest of any starting player for either team – while completing just seven out of 12 passes, and he did not win any of his seven aerial duels.
He also saw a shot saved by City goalkeeper Ederson when through one-on-one at the start of the second half, a chance that Opta measured with an xG (expected goals) score of 0.365, meaning that he would be expected to score at least one in three times from that position.
The £97million signing from Inter recently apologised to the club and the fans after giving an interview in Italy where he appeared to criticise Blues boss Tuchel for not playing to his strengths.
Speaking to BT Sport after the game, Tuchel explained his frustration with the Belgian striker’s display, saying: “He had many ball losses without any pressure, many ball losses in very promising circumstances. He had a huge chance.
“We want to serve him, but he is part of the team, and the performance up front, particularly in the first half, we can do much, much better.”
Apart from Lukaku, Tuchel was reluctant to fault his team at the post-match news conference despite the defeat, and praised their attitude and commitment in the game, saying to reporters: “I think we lost on individual performance and on one situation today. In terms of attitude, commitment, defensive-wise, I am happy.
“We did not allow too many big chances, kept them to a minimum, and we were aware and active with our defending.
“We had big counter chances, big offensive transition chances we wasted. With the same performance we have won games against Man City, and we could draw this game, and, of course, lose this.”
0 – Chelsea failed to attempt a shot in the first half at the Etihad; the first time they’ve failed to do so in a Premier League game under Thomas Tuchel, and first time overall since May 2018 v Newcastle. Sheltered. pic.twitter.com/lBBLcUcmF0
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 15, 2022
Chelsea managed just four shots and one on target, all of which came in the second half, and Tuchel acknowledged that the European champions did not create enough, only having seven touches in the City box compared to the hosts who had 31 in the Chelsea penalty area.
“We did not have enough chances for the ball wins and the movements we could have had,” Tuchel added. “We could have had more chances if we played with better timing, better precision. It’s simply like this.
“We had eight or nine transition chances and out of them we did not have a touch in the box. This is what I am critical about. If we miss chances, I am not critical. Everyone wants to score big chances, and we do not get a lot of them in big games.
“We could have had many more chances, that is what I am critical about. The decision-making and timing wasn’t at the level we need.”
Tuchel was also asked for his reaction to the Premier League’s decision to postpone Sunday’s north London derby between Arsenal and Tottenham after the Gunners made a request on Friday, due to having a number of players out through injury, suspension, COVID-19 or at the Africa Cup of Nations.
The former Borussia Dortmund manager has recently expressed frustration with the league for postponing some games and not others, including rejecting Chelsea’s request to cancel their visit to Wolves in December.
“It’s much better for me not to answer the question. Much, much better,” the German said.