Chris Sutton was also Chelsea’s record signing — and flopped. But he says he’d be embarrassed walking into training with the kind of stats Belgium star Romelu Lukaku had against Crystal Palace.
I could look back at my time at Chelsea and blame everybody else. My manager, my team-mates, the tactics, the pressure of the price tag, whatever. But ultimately, I blame myself.
I was the club’s record signing. I cost them £10million in 1999 and it didn’t work out, so I was sold after a single season in blue.
Chris Sutton says he’d be embarrassed walking into training with the kind of stats Belgium star Romelu Lukaku (pictured) had against Crystal Palace
£97.5million summer signing Lukaku (pictured) only had seven touches of the ball
Yet if I had ever finished a game having had only seven touches of the ball, I’d feel embarrassed walking back into that training ground.
For a striker to come out of 90 minutes with that sorry statistic screams ‘I’m hiding’ and there’s no escaping that for Romelu Lukaku.
Maybe he will blame a lack of service, but that’s only part of the problem.
If Lukaku wanted to touch the ball more than seven times against Crystal Palace, he could have done.
He could have made better movements. He could have made it impossible for his team-mates to ignore him.
Sutton says Belgian international Lukaku (left) should have demanded Chelsea team-mates to play the ball into him
He could have demanded they play the ball into him. He could have screamed and shouted and told them: ‘I’m this club’s record signing so f***ing feed me.’
There were times when Lukaku looked to make runs behind and the ball didn’t come. But just seven touches overall? That’s primarily on Lukaku — not the players around him. One of those touches was from kick-off, too.
Chelsea had 58 per cent possession at Palace and it was his responsibility to get involved rather than be disconnected.
His manager, Thomas Tuchel, seems to have given up defending his £97.5m striker.
Asked about Lukaku’s struggles after Saturday’s game at Selhurst Park, Tuchel simply said: ‘No, no, no. It’s not about the system.’ Translation: ‘It’s on you, Romelu — not my tactics.’
Though Chelsea won, Match of the Day were right to dedicate a segment to this statistic on Saturday night.
Gary Lineker, Alan Shearer and Ian Wright — three former strikers with 1,000-plus goals between them for club and country — found it remarkable and I do, too.
Lukaku’s body language at Manchester United was often questioned and watching his performance on Saturday suggested he isn’t going out of his way to make this move work, either.
Centre forwards create their own luck. I felt bad for my Chelsea manager Gianluca Vialli. He convinced the club to invest in me but when the goals don’t flow, confidence is low.
You second guess yourself, but I can say I never stopped trying to get on the ball and do what they signed me to do.
When my time at Chelsea didn’t work out, I was sold. I got my fresh start — I moved to Celtic for £6m in 2000 and loved my trophy-laden time in Scotland — and Chelsea moved on. It was best for both parties.
Former record signing Sutton was a flop and got a £6million move away to Celtic to get a fresh start
The longer he struggles, the more you wonder if Chelsea isn’t right for Lukaku and vice versa. It’s on him to change that narrative.
Lukaku doesn’t help himself. He can talk himself into trouble. Like that social media post last week. ‘If you have to force it then it probably doesn’t fit,’ he wrote.
Maybe that wasn’t a reference to Chelsea but then, given his situation, it wasn’t the wisest message to be putting out there.
We live in an era where whatever you post while having your corn flakes in the morning will have been seen by the world by lunchtime.
Ever since that unsolicited interview with Italian television, there’s been an awkwardness around Lukaku and Chelsea. He mentioned in that chat how the system isn’t set up to help him.
Striker Lukaku (left) has previously stated the Chelsea system isn’t set up to help him
Did he expect Chelsea to play the way he was playing at Inter Milan? Inter played with two up top under Antonio Conte.
They had a counter-attacking style and he would drop deep to contribute to those fast breaks, applying his pace and ball-carrying skills.
Lukaku would often drift towards the right-hand side of the pitch so he could come inside on to his favoured left foot. That isn’t the Chelsea way.
Tuchel likes possession and high pressing, and Lukaku was signed to be their certified man up top; to score the goals to turn them into Premier League champions. I even tipped Chelsea to win the title because of their new star signing in the summer.
It doesn’t look like Tuchel is going to change his philosophy any time soon. Now they play Lille in the Champions League tonight. Lukaku will go into this game knowing there has been major talk of his seven touches.
He should be motivated to want to beat that total early on and if he scores, he might even go for the old ‘shush’ celebration.
The best way to silence his critics would be to do what Tuchel is telling him to do — to play the way your manager wants and serve your side by not letting games pass you by.
Lukaku can be a deadly finisher of chances when he wants to be and that’s why his disappearing act at Selhurst Park was so alarming.