Romelu Lukaku – the striker Chelsea needed to become a trophy-winning threat


When news broke on Thursday (12 August) that Chelsea had signed Romelu Lukaku in a £97.5million deal, the reaction was perhaps not as big as was being hoped. The Belgian striker is one of the best goalscorers in world football right now. The deal also makes him the most expensive player ever signed by Chelsea. Yet it hasn’t generated as much hype or enthusiasm as other big moves this summer have. Perhaps it’s down to Lukaku’s forgettable first stint at Chelsea from 2011-14. Perhaps it is his mixed record for Manchester United that followed a promising spell at Everton. Whatever the reason, it didn’t generate as much buzz as many might have thought.

But make no mistake – the Belgium striker is a potentially transformative signing for Thomas Tuchel. The German manager managed to win the Champions League with a team last season, which is one of the best things to do.

He was rewarded with a contract extension and the signing of a truly world class player. But how much of a difference can Lukaku make to this Chelsea team? let’s take a look.

Romelu Lukaku – the guaranteed goalscorer

Its most obvious effect will be in front. Chelsea have struggled massively to fill the void since the departure of Diego Costa.

Many felt Timo Werner would be the answer to that conundrum, but his own goal-scoring form has been mediocre at best. There is also an acceptance that he is perhaps better suited to move wide ahead than the out-and-out No.9.

Tuchel, since arriving at Chelsea in January, has made them more compact at the back. But scoring goals from the side still remains a major concern.

Chelsea may have won the Champions League, but they have never been able to score a lot of goals. Even the final was decided on a slim scoreline of 1-0.

In the Premier League, Chelsea finished fourth but only had the eighth best scoring record in the league. 58 goals in 38 matches is not title-winning form, no matter how strong they are defensively.

It is not that he did not create chances. The forward regularly found himself in good positions but often squandered those chances. They significantly underperformed in the xG (goals expected) metric.

This is something that should be less of a problem with a proper goal-scorer in the team.

In Lukaku’s two seasons in Italy, he scored 64 goals in 95 appearances. Even at Manchester United, where his erratic performances were criticized, he scored 42 goals in two seasons.

Yet his goalscoring was never the same that many thought he would not become an elite player…

more goals

Perhaps Lukaku’s biggest shortcoming was his lack of all-round play. In today’s day and age, simply having a big target man or fox in the box type hunter is not enough. A striker is expected to do more.

The best modern strikers will have a good passing range and excellent link-up play to complement their goal-scoring exploits. Lukaku was, at one point, an excellent finisher, but little else.

His link-up game left much to be desired, as did his ball control in the tight end position. In fact, his first touch was something that social media users were constantly criticizing him for.

However, Antonio Conte made him a different player at Inter Milan. Lukaku’s passing and link-up play improved and he recorded 11 assists for Inter last season – his personal best.

It wasn’t even just a temporary pass. Lukaku was well-intentioned and often used his strengths to his advantage.

Granted, his partnership with Lautaro Martinez helped in that regard. But Chelsea have plenty of players – Havertz, Werner or even Pulisic – who would thrive against Lukaku.

Whereas previously he was a target man with a good finish, he is now a more complete striker. And that would help Chelsea a lot.

rewrite the narrative

There is also the fact that Romelu Lukaku will be desperate to exorcise the demons from his previous stint at the club. He never scored a Premier League goal for Chelsea, despite his brief stay at the club.

His last kick of a ball in Chelsea blue saw him miss the deciding penalty in the 2013 UEFA Super Cup penalty shootout against Bayern Munich.

In fact, there is a suggestion that all of Lukaku’s success since then is partly due to his poor time at Chelsea. Yet it is worth remembering that the Belgian became a fan of the club and even idolized Didier Drogba.

Lukaku always wanted to emulate his role model and win a lot of trophies for the Blues. Now, many years after their first farewell, they finally have their chance to do so.

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