Where to start with Romelu Lukaku? Initially I have to place my cards on the table I was once one of his biggest supporters, elated when he was plucked from Anderlecht, convinced Chelsea has signed the Prince to King Drogba’s throne. I was wrong, Michael Emanalo (who incidentally I have quite a lot of time for) was wrong and Jose was right. It appears that Chelsea will be looking to replace a Diego Costa shaped hole in the summer and many are touting his triumphant return to The Bridge fulfilling his early billing as Drogba 2.0. In my opinion he is not the right player for us, right now. Do allow me to set out why.
Style of Play
Sadly, at the moment he is all wrong for Chelsea’s style of play. At our best this season we have been dynamic in transition relying on quick interplay between Costa/Hazard/Pedro/William either in an around the box or on the half way line on the break. For this to happen quickness and deftness of touch is vital. This is one glaringly obvious, in this and past seasons his hold up play is reminiscent of a dog chasing a balloon or alternatively every second touch appears to be a tackle. Aha, I hear you say, but what of Fabregas, elegantly sweeping laser guided through ball for him? Also, no. As sweet as these balls may be as Ross Barkley found out this year Lukaku is invariably offside (second only to a creaking 37-year-old Zlatan). With his pace, this is borderline criminal.
Flat Track Bully
Quite simply in my opinion what makes top strikers like Drogba so special is that they rise to the big occasion (hence I remain mystified why Chelsea didn’t bring him back on a two-day contract for the FA Cup final). As it stands next season Chelsea will be asked to fight on all fronts by the owner, whoever is occupying the centre forward role will need to score crucial goals in tight games against miserly defences in both the League, Cups and in Europe. This year aside from one goal in Everton’s 4-0 demolition of City, consolation goals in defeats to Spurs and Arsenal are not enough. His goal scoring exploits this year included 3 against a woeful Sunderland pub side and 4 in the wonderfully bizarre win at home against Bournemouth and 2 against Hull, at home. He was also anonymous against all of the top six sides who contained him fairly easily, especially down the stretch. At this point my estimation is that he is somewhat of a flat track bully that has inflated his statistics with consolation goals and walkovers instead of crucial winning goals.
Lukaku is, or should be a prototypical centre forward, if you put scientists to work in an extravagantly funded lab and told them to spare no genetic expense, he is exactly what they would bring into this world, a seemingly devastating balance of pace, power and size, an FM wet dream. The reality however, as in his first spell with the club would be underwhelming at an astronomical price tag and wage packet. People will rightly point to the return of David Luiz and Matic as buy-backs that worked, this time I cannot see the level of improvement needed to justify the move, he needs another two years at least of polish and he simply would have to hit the ground running (not offside).