Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel on Monday refused to single out misfiring striker Romelu Lukaku for further criticism following his display in their Premier League loss to Manchester City.
Chelsea were beaten 1-0 by league leaders City on Saturday and Tuchel had expressed frustration with Lukaku’s performance after the match but said on Monday that it was wrong to pin the blame for the team’s performance on a single player.
“I think we do everything to help (Lukaku),” the manager told a news conference ahead of Chelsea’s trip to Brighton & Hove Albion on Tuesday.
“This is what we do for any player. This is a team sport and it’s not about 10 players serving one player. It is not Chelsea and it is not football. Every player is there to serve the team. This is the highest principle and won’t change.
“We expected more from all our offensive players in the last match. I think we had enough offensive actions, transitions, to hurt Man City more than we did.”
The defeat sent Chelsea down to third in the standings, 13 points behind City and two behind second-placed Liverpool and Tuchel added that easing the pressure of expectation on Lukaku would be key to the striker finding his best form.
“He’s a key player, so there will always be pressure but not more pressure than he puts on himself,” the manager said. “We need to find a mix between all the expectations, the pressure, and to be relaxed enough to play your best game.
“It’s not only about pushing, squeezing, demands, it’s also about feeling peace and being relaxed on the pitch. Things will fall into place when we keep on working hard and this is what we will keep on doing.”
The German would not be drawn on whether the title race was already over, saying that his team would never give up.
“We have to admit that City is in a very strong place,” Tuchel said.
“The second thing is we will never give up, never never never, until the race is over. I told you many weeks before we are in a good place as we are in the middle of the race. Well, maybe not anymore but we are in the race.
“This is what we have to show now, a relentless spirit and it cannot lower our ambition and commitment in how we play, train and what we give.”