In the matter of two days, Premier League behemoths Chelsea and Manchester City have agreed to splash out close to £200m on two players.
Jack Grealish has already joined Premier League champions City for £100m, but not wanting to be outdone by the team they beat in last season’s Champions League final, Chelsea are now pulling the trigger on a huge deal of their own.
The player in question is Romelu Lukaku, the figure in question is €115m (equivalent to £97.5m), and the reason for his arrival is because Chelsea have realised that letting the Belgian go seven years ago was, in all probability, a huge mistake.
Lukaku’s return to West London is reward for a superb couple of seasons at Inter, which culminated in a first Serie A title for I Nerazzurri in over a decade. The 28-year-old was largely responsible for that success, scoring 24 league goals to follow up a maiden campaign where he scored just one less.
Chelsea, meanwhile, are champions of Europe, but owner Roman Abramovich has got the winning itch again. He’s happy to spend big and head coach Thomas Tuchel is more than happy to receive a player of Lukaku’s capabilities; whom he hopes can fire the Blues to Premier League glory once more.
So how, and where, will he fit in? Here’s how it could work for Lukaku second time around…
Lukaku forged a very successful strike partnership with Lautaro Martinez at Inter, but he may not get the opportunity to play in a central two at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea enjoyed great success playing three at the back last season, with marauding wing-backs doubling up at times with inside forwards to play either side of a central figure. Were Tuchel to stick with a similar formula this season, we could see the likes of Reece James and Ben Chilwell flying up and down the wing, allowing Kai Havertz and Timo Werne to drift in – for example – to play alongside Lukaku.
Werner could exploit running in behind pre-occupied central defenders, while Havertz’s guile and ability on the ball will come to the fore as he drops off and links up with the Belgian.
The beauty of Lukaku is that he’s more than capable of running in behind himself, which could allow Havertz to strut his stuff centrally in a kind of ‘false nine’ role – something he did to great effect towards the end of last season.
Those qualities could also be beneficial for Hakim Ziyech, Christian Pulisic and Callum Hudson-Odoi, all of whom are vying for game time.
Havertz (RW)- Lukaku (ST) – Werner (LW)
Ziyech (RW) – Lukaku (ST) – Werner (LW)
Hudson-Odoi (RW)- Lukaku (ST) – Werner (LW)
Havertz (RW)- Lukaku (ST) – Pulisic (LW)
Ziyech (RW) – Lukaku (ST) – Pulisic (LW)
Hudson-Odoi (RW)- Lukaku (ST) – Pulisic (LW)
Havertz (RW)- Lukaku (ST) – Hudson-Odoi (LW)
Ziyech (RW) – Lukaku (ST) – Hudson-Odoi (LW)
As previously alluded to, Lukaku had a great time of it in Serie A playing alongside young Argentine forward Martinez.
The two had a tremendous dynamic and complemented each other’s skillsets perfectly. More importantly, neither player was forced to compromise their goalscoring instincts, which is reflected in their tremendous scoring record.
Lukaku was the more prolific of the two, scoring 47 goals in Serie A alone, but Martinez was also a regular goal getter, snaring 31 of his own. The most destructive strike partnership across Europe during 2019/20, the duo even coined the nickname ‘Lu-La’ – something that is usually reserved for the absolute top brass.
In terms of what this means for Chelsea, it could be great news for Havertz if Tuchel fancies keeping him down the middle. The German is a superb technician and really came into form at the back end of last season, highlighted by his match winning performance in the Champions League final.
He has the intelligence to drift into spaces Lukaku may open up, but could be equally as effective dropping deep – playing balls in behind for the lean, mean, Belgian goalscoring machine to sweep home with ruthless efficiency.
As for Werner, having a regular buddy up front could calm his nerves in front of goal, and he’ll arguably get more chances by playing alongside Lukaku. Tammy Abraham, unfortunately, can probably consider his Chelsea career over, should a buyer be willing to match his wage demands, with Christian Pulisic another rogue shout to play up top.
He’s yet to show his absolute best form at Chelsea, and seems to be a confidence player; something he would surely ooze if he is pressing opposition backlines with Lukaku by his side.
Lukaku (ST) – Werner (ST)
Lukaku (ST) – Havertz (ST)
Lukaku (ST) – Abraham (ST)
Lukaku (ST) – Pulisic (ST)
It’s a scenario that we’re not likely to see too often, but Lukaku can play up top on his own if Chelsea have their backs against the wall or opt to take a cautious approach from the off.
Wingers would likely still be on the pitch, albeit slightly deeper to maintain a strong defensive shape. Whether it’s five yards or 15 yards away from a teammate, Lukaku can hold the ball up with effortless ease and even turn to run at defences on his own. He’s proven his speed in the past and his touch has improved at Inter; likely a result of not being under intense media scrutiny each and every week like he was at Manchester United.
Whichever way Chelsea decide to go, it’s going to be incredibly exciting to see Lukaku back in English football. He’s box office, one of the best strikers in the world, and, crucially, feels he has a point to prove at a club’s he’s admitted to loving in the past.
We can’t wait to see him in action…