The most important decision made by Chelsea this summer might turn out to be starting to believe in Romelu Lukaku. No longer loaned out to other clubs or spending time with the reserve team. The Belgian striker has proven he’s ready to become a star in the Premier League, and there’s a good chance he’ll get that opportunity this season.
Fernando Torres last season? Scored 8 league goals. Demba Ba, for Chelsea? Two league goals. Romelu Lukaku, at his first season as a full-time starter in the Premier League? He scored 17 league goals for West Brom, proving that signing him from Anderlecht in a deal that will be worth £17 million when all the add-ons kick in might have been a wise choice.
There are plenty of Chelsea youngsters, most of them Dutch and French, from the last few years, that haven’t really made it. But it seems dividends of improving the quality of their younger players as well, like Kevin de Bruyne and Thiabut Courtois (still on loan in Spain), are finally coming in, meaning there’s a future to Chelsea that doesn’t involve signing stars for £30 million each summer.
Jose Mourinho seems to believe in Lukaku. He might not be the next Didier Drogba, but for a kid that’s been singled out as the next best thing in Belgium from the first time he stepped on the pitch for Anderlecht, becoming a first-team player at a Champions-League club like Chelsea is the next step, not fulfilling comparisons to other legendary strikers.
We don’t want the striker just aiming between the central defenders, but making movements, sometimes between midfield or moving wide. Lukaku is very open to learn the kind of movement we want. As for the Drogba comparisons? We have to respect them both. The best way to do that is not compare Lukaku to a legend. Leave Didier where he is, at the top of Chelsea’s history and leave Lukaku to work hard. The kid is good.
Succeeding at Chelsea and West Brom is a very different thing. The pressure on a player to make the most of his chances is greater at Chelsea, and Fernando Torres can teach an entire generation of kids who want to be the next great goalscorer of how letting your confidence betray you results in heavy feet in the penalty box. Even if Lukaku does get to start, he isn’t the main affaird, which can be good or bad.
The ball is first and foremost in the legs of Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar. From there things develop, and most of the good things happen when Mata and Hazard are involved. Oscar? He has his moments, but consistency is still not a big part of his repertoire.
What will be a good season for Lukaku? Being a substantial part of Chelsea and whatever they achieve this season. It’s going to be less about the amount of goals he scores, but about the amount of faith and chances he gets, especially when it comes to starts in the Champions League and the Premier League.