Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel said on Monday that Romelu Lukaku should not be made fun of after the £98 million ($133 million) striker had just seven touches in the weekend’s 1-0 win at Crystal Palace.
Last Saturday’s figure is the fewest number of touches registered by any player who completed the 90 minutes since such data was first recorded in 2003.
Tuchel was grilled on how to get the best from the Belgian, who the Blues signed for a club record fee in August, ahead of his side’s return to Champions League action against Lille in the last 16.
Chelsea won the Champions League without Lukaku last season, but his signing was made with the intention of challenging for the Premier League title.
The 28-year-old has just five Premier League goals so far in his second spell at Stamford Bridge, three of which came in his first three appearances.
The seeming incompatibility between Lukaku and the rest of his teammates was summed up by the scarcity of his involvement at Selhurst Park as Chelsea escaped with a late win thanks to Hakim Ziyech’s strike.
“It’s not what we want and not what Romelu wants but it’s not the time to laugh about him and make jokes,” Tuchel said.
“He is in the spotlight and we will protect him because he’s our player.”
Tuchel defended accusations that it is his preferred 3-4-3 system that Lukaku is failing to adapt to.
Lukaku was dropped for a vital clash against Liverpool on January 2 after voicing his frustrations as Tuchel’s style of play in a December interview with Sky Italia.