“Chelsea need a striker.”
That’s the line I keep hearing from people when I talk to them about this upcoming Premier League season. I point out to these people that actually, Chelsea has three or four players capable of playing up-front.
“Well, yeah, but I mean a Cavani or Lewandowski type – a real world class striker.”
It’s true; the biggest teams in the world are normally built around solid defence and a world class striker. Look at Manchester United and Robin Van Persie/Wayne Rooney; look at Real Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo (not forgetting Barcelona and Lionel Messi), and Manchester City with Sergio Aguero.
Chelsea do not have a player like this – Eden Hazard is world class, but he’s not a Messi or Ronaldo sort of player – and missed out on essentially all of their summer transfer targets.
Edinson Cavani went to Paris St. Germain, Radamel Falcao to Monaco and it looks like Rooney will be staying with Manchester United (at least for now).
So back to our statement – Chelsea need a striker, a striker who can dominate defences and lead the line. Something Fernando Torres has struggled to do since his £50m move from Liverpool.
I believe they have one. His name is Romelu Lukaku.
Bizzarely, I had seen Lukaku branded as a “flop” already by some pundits and columnists before last season. What these people obviously did not understand was that despite Chelsea paying £18 million to bring the Belgian youngster to Stamford Bridge, the plan was never to start Lukaku in his first season.
He was one for the future. Except it turns out, actually, he was one for the very near future.
Lukaku had dominated the Jupiler League in Belgium since he was 15 years old - his speed coupled with this height, strength, and eye for goal were a deadly combination. In the Premier League however, he looked a little over-matched in a brief stint at the end of the 2011/12 season.
Last off-season, Lukaku admitted he was a little out of shape and said he was working harder in the gym to improve his already large physique. He went on loan to West Bromwich Albion to be mentored by former Chelsea assistant manager Steve Clark expecting a bench role, but valuable experience.
Lukaku took his opportunity and ran with it, netting 17 goals for West Brom in the Premier League. He ended up being one of the most deadly strikers in the division at just 19-years-old.
It’s not surprising that Jose Mourinho says Lukaku can be his new Didier Drogba.
The similarities to Drogba are obvious – his height, weight, speed, eye for goal are all comparable – except for one thing: Lukaku is just 20, and he hasn’t stopped growing or developing.
Looking at them side-by-side is indicative of what I’m talking about.
Drogba's first at Chelsea Football Club:
1,635 Minutes Played,
10 Goals (163.5 minutes per goal),
42% Shooting Accuracy
15% Chance Conversion.
Lukaku’s first full season in the Premier League (West Bromwich Albion, on loan):
2,003 Minutes Played,
17 Goals (117.8 minutes per goal*)
*That’s about 21 minutes per goal better than the £100 million rated, Football Writers Association Player of the Year, PFA Players’ Player of the Year and PFA Young Player of the Year: Gareth Bale.
59% Shooting Accuracy,
21% Chance Conversion (5% better than £100m rated Gareth Bale).
Now compare Lukaku’s 19-year-old season to Drogba’s best season with Chelsea.
Drogba’s Best Season With Chelsea Football Club:
2,774 Minutes Played,
29 Goals (95.7 minutes per goal),
47% Shooting Accuracy,
20% Chance Conversion.
Lukaku’s stats aren’t very far away. He’s 20.
Lukaku has clearly adjusted to the Premier League quicker than Drogba did. Not to mention Lukaku can only get better, faster and stronger from this point on. Right now, Lukaku is 10 kg (22lbs) heavier than Drogba was in his peak with Chelsea and has blistering pace.
If Lukaku has continued to work hard, and continues to develop at his current rate, he could be as good as Drogba in his best season for Chelsea… this season.
That should scare Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal and, quite frankly, the rest of the Premier League.
He is built to play up-front on his own, he is built to deal with the physicality of the Premier League and he possesses the raw talent to keep even the best defenders guessing.
Throw in service from a combination of Juan Mata, Eden Hazard, Andre Schurrle, Oscar, Victor Moses, Frank Lampard, Marco van Ginkel and Fernando Torres and this “boy” Lukaku could be the real deal.
If Lukaku’s development continues as we expect – starting games for Chelsea every week – he could be more lethal for Chelsea now than Cavani, Lewandowski, or Falcao could ever have been.
“Chelsea need a striker.” No, they don’t.
They have Romelu Lukaku.
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