Chelsea broke their transfer record to sign Romelu Lukaku, a player they had allowed to leave when he was younger to ensure he fulfills his potential.
In doing so, the Blues have prepared the striker for arguably the most important period of his career.
Thomas Tuchel has made it clear his intention to sign a striker to build on the club’s Champions League success and challenge Manchester City, Liverpool and Manchester United for the Premier League title.
After weeks of talks, director Marina Granovskaia has granted her wish by negotiating a deal to sign Lukaku from Inter Milan for £ 97.5million.
The 28-year-old is entering his early years, a chilling thought given the scoring prowess he has already demonstrated in his life as a forward.
He hasn’t played in England since 2019, but he still has 113 Premier League goals to his name.
He is Belgium’s all-time top scorer with 64 goals in 98 caps, but he has at least five years left at the top of international football to build on his record.
But now he must try to find a way to regularly imprint his name on the proverbial scoresheet, something no Chelsea striker has managed to achieve since Diego Costa left the club.
Costa is the latest striker to have managed to score 20 times in the Premier League for the West London side, achieving the feat in two of his three seasons in the capital.
Among the many forwards to have held the post in recent years, Didier Drogba is the only other leader to cross the 20-goal mark.
What Chelsea have been missing for some time is a striker who combines power and pace with finesse and intelligence. But in Lukaku, they seem to have finally found their man.
If there is one criticism from the Belgian, it’s that his Premier League goals have mostly come in games against lower-ranked opponents and not often enough in the crucial clashes.
Once people realized his lack of goals against the top six teams, he was dubbed a “flat bully” – something Lukaku considered unfair.
“As a striker when I was there [at Everton ], I had a good time. I learned my trade there. I played there for four years. I am really grateful to the club no matter what has happened, ”he said.
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“But sometimes it’s also difficult when you’re playing against the best teams and playing to not win and not really create chances. It is really difficult. “
Statistics suggest that Lukaku tends to find the net against smaller teams, although that depends on your interpretation of the teams that make up such a tag these days.
His best record is against West Ham, who has scored 11 goals against in his career. The Hammers actually finished sixth last season and could offer a more solid test than they did on his first run in the top flight.
Next on the list are Southampton (9), Bournemouth (8), Crystal Palace (8), Sunderland (8), Newcastle (7) and Stoke (6). The motive is clear and undeniable.
But Blues fans won’t need to remember the times Lukaku put them at the edge of the sword. He scored both goals in Everton’s 2-0 win at Goodison Park in the 2015-16 “Mourinho” season and was also featured on Man United’s scoresheet.
Instead of the negative connotations that come with being a striker who only targets smaller teams, Lukaku could actually solve a huge problem for his new manager.
Chelsea were the ninth Premier League top scorer last season since open play last season and the fact that their top scorer was a starting midfielder – Jorginho scored his seven goals from the penalty spot – must have hurt Tuchel.
On several occasions last season, Chelsea dominated games against teams in the bottom half but ended up with frustrating results due to their inability to kill their opponents.
Looking at their top four rivals, Man City had Sergio Aguero, Tottenham saw Harry Kane flourish and Liverpool have a top three that eliminates the need for a single striker. But Chelsea were forced to share the collective responsibility.
While Tuchel doesn’t think they have to change their system to accommodate their new arrival, the 47-year-old coach hailed Lukaku as a “good number 9” and is confident that with a player of his strength, they will find new ways to score.
“I think that with the exit of Olivier Giroud, we could use a player used to playing with his back to goal, whose strength is to keep possession of long balls,” he said.
“He likes to play physically, he’s comfortable playing with his back to goal. But he’s also very, very good at using his speed and pace.
“Romelu has several strengths. He is strong in the air, he will give us new power when we cross sideways. We don’t have to change our playstyle to make it shine.
Of course, he will have to adapt to be back in England against another brand of defenders and tactical systems. Those who expect Lukaku to hit the ground running may need to temper their expectations.
Tuchel is unlikely to be too eager for the 6-foot-2 forward to float down the right flank, waiting for a chance to cut in and show off his formidable ability to beat defenders with agility and direct rush.
Instead, he’ll be the focal point their attackers use as a rebound for one-two or a reliable poacher near the penalty spot.
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The fact that his 24 goals entered the box last season for Inter suggests that Lukaku is happy to put his strengths to good use and allow Timo Werner and Kai Havertz to float like inside the No.10s.
As Arsenal languishes in 17th place after the season opener, some Blues fans may joke that their rivals are giving Lukaku the perfect opportunity to show whether he will revel in the role of a tyrant again. flat.
For Tuchel’s sake, he hopes the answer, unequivocally, is yes.