Thomas Tuchel has explained why Romelu Lukaku hasn't been starting games for Chelsea recently while revealing that he is "an option" to lead the line against Arsenal on Wednesday night.
Lukaku returned to Chelsea from Inter in a club-record deal last summer, but has since struggled for consistency under Tuchel.
The 28-year-old is still looking for his first Premier League goal of 2022 and is no longer a regular in the Blues' starting XI, with Timo Werner getting the nod ahead of him for their 2-0 FA Cup semi-final win over Crystal Palace on Sunday.
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What's been said?
Lukaku missed a glorious chance to get on the scoresheet after coming on as a substitute at Wembley, while Werner picked up the man-of-the-match award despite also failing to find the net.
The German had scored three times in his previous two appearances, but Tuchel doesn't think that Lukaku needs the push from his team-mate to raise his level, with it his belief that fitness problems have significantly hindered the Belgian's progress.
"I don't think that he needs inspiration. He needs that one moment, that one spark," the Chelsea boss told reporters ahead of the Arsenal game.
"I told you that he would normally be a natural starter against Crystal Palace in terms of the number of minutes Kai Havertz has played now and the amount of physicality he has played with recently.
"Because of the injury, he lacks the fitness of matches. I don't point the finger at him, but it's just like this. It's a crucial part of the season when you need to have rhythm.
"If you see the games against Brentford and Real Madrid, you see the effort we had to put in to become a winning team again. Rom should have had a goal against Real Madrid [in the Champions League], but he is missing the luck. If he starts, we need all he can do physically, but he is always an option."
Lukaku's record in 2021-22
Lukaku has only been able to record 12 goals in 37 appearances since re-signing for Chelsea, including just five in the Premier League.
The 28-year-old was left out of the Blues' 6-0 win away at Southampton on April 9 and had been on the bench for their previous four top-flight matches.
Lukaku's last Premier League goal came in a 1-1 draw with Brighton back in December, but he will hope to get the nod when Arsenal arrive at Stamford Bridge in midweek with a view to breaking his duck and going on to finish the season strongly.