Romelu wasn't built in a day


Writer: FPL Rubber Ducky


Introduction


Like building a city, putting a great football squad together takes time and money. The latter Chelsea has in abundance due to their wealthy owner who seems to have found a renewed enthusiasm for the club following the success Frank Lampard had with a youthful squad. However, as the pensioners favourite discovered for himself, even his short-term achievements had a limit, with the West London idol being dismissed in January 2021 following a disappointing run of league results.


His replacement Thomas Tuchel didn't have a long career in management, especially for Champions League level clubs. Despite this, the German picked up some silverware at both Borussia Dortmund and PSG (both of which did not last more than three years) and he knew that success had to happen quickly at Chelsea and frequently in order to maintain his position.


Tuchel knows that despite winning the Champions League last season, it will be the ability to take the Premier League title off Manchester City that will further define and cement his tenure in West London.


A short pre-season, following the 2021 European Championship, and a scramble to find the final piece of the jigsaw that has been missing (since the departure of Diego Costa) bring us to where we are. After the Euros attention quickly turned back to club football and who in Europe was going to get the signature of Erling Haaland was a talking point. At one point, the Norwegian wonderkid may have even been the first choice option of the Chelsea hierarchy.


However with time ticking and no deal in sight Tuchel would have known he could not afford to go into the new season without a striker. Even if the better option may have been to wait a season and try to persuade the 21 year old to leave Borussia Dortmund next summer. But the current Chelsea manager may not be around by then to lure him from his former club. Therefore, the final result in this transfer saga saw the return of Romelu Lukaku to Stamford Bridge from Inter Milan.


Building Foundations


The Belgian forward has had an interesting relationship with Chelsea following his initial transfer to the club as a nineteen year old in 2011 for £17,000,000. Not unexpectedly Lukaku was given very little playing time in his first season at Stamford Bridge and was sent on a season long loan to West Bromwich Albion the following season.


The young Belgian excelled with The Baggies in the Premier League, scoring 17 goals and 6 assists in 35 appearances. Lukaku was the key influence on helping the club achieve its highest ever Premier League finish (8th). On the surface this looks very impressive. Scoring 17 goals for a team that would be considered as one that should struggle to stay in the division. In my opinion, this season would be a clear indication of how the Belgium would continue his career.


There is no denying that from a fantasy football perspective if you had a striker that managed to score 17 goals through the season you would be satisfied. However if you look a little closer he would of left many FPL managers frustrated. That season Lukaku defined the term “streaky”. The first 10 league games saw the Belgium only score 3 times and with no assists. Following a positive return of a goal against Liverpool in the opening fixture of the season against Liverpool. Gameweeks 4 and 8 would see the next returns against Reading and Newcastle United.


Throughout the season his goalscoring was sporadic and often seemed to score against the same opponents: Sunderland, Swansea City, Reading and Liverpool all failing foul to the Belgian’s eye for goal home and away. His season total received an unexpected an unreliable boost, with a second half hat-trick in the last game of the season, during a game that was nothing more than an exhibition match against Manchester United, a ceremonial event as this was Alex Ferguson’s final game in charge of The Red Devils.


A Blueprint For Success


The following season saw Romelu Lukaku loaned out again for the whole of the 2013/14 campaign, before completing a permanent transfer to The Toffees in the summer of 2014 for the fee of €28,000,000.00.


Lukaku’s career did get off to a flying start at Goodison Park, scoring 5 goals and an assist in his first 5 games. This was followed up by another brace in GW9 and another goal in GW10. However his frustrating inconsistency was still evident, as he only scored a single goal in the following 10 Gameweeks. After suffering a torn ankle ligament throughout February the Belgian came back to score 6 goals in the remaining last 12 weeks of the season. With an average of 1 goal every 1.9 games, this would statistically prove to be his most successful season on Merseyside. His reliance on good service was evident as the vast majority of his goals were scored around the penalty spot or just outside the six yard box.


The following season was disappointing with a return of only 10 Premier League goals, however there was a return to form in his third and fourth season at Everton, with an average of a goal every two games, scoring a season high 18 Premier League goals from 36 matches. The 2016-17 season was his most productive in the Premier League and saw the striker score an incredible 25 goals in 36 games. A record that drew the attentions of Manchester United.


The nature of his form did not develop through his time on the blue side of Liverpool. During 2015/16 season at Everton his form continued to be inconsistent. When you study his goal scoring record during this campaign you are automatically drawn towards his 13 goals in 13 games between September and December. What is also noticeable however is following that run the Belgian only scored 3 goals in the remaining 18 Gameweeks. A closer look also highlights the fact that Lukaku throughout his time at Everton, struggled to score against the clubs situated in the higher echelons of the Premier League. This fact is covered over as Lukaku will score a brace or more against teams who are struggling defensively.


Lukaku’s final season at Goodison Park was his most consistent. This was also the first season where Lukaku scored against the teams fighting for European qualification, scoring home and away against Manchester City, away at Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal. The final season tally of 25 goals is flattered slightly as Lukaku was ruthless against the appalling defences of Sunderland and Bournemouth, where he scored a hat-trick and double brace respectively.


The Belgian's time at Everton does highlight the fixture sensitivity that Lukaku has often demonstrated throughout his career at Everton. An interesting statistic of his tenure at the club, was the number of different teammates who assisted Lukaku in achieving his goal scoring record. However, as mentioned previously and was evident at his next Premier League club, Lukaku’s goal scoring style is beyond rigid and is heavily dependent on creative supply lines, creating through balls down the middle of the pitch, rather than creating his own chances.

Et tu, Brute?


When manager at Chelsea, Jose Mourinho sold Lukaku to Everton claiming “he lacked motivation to fight for place”, when previously he had told the media “The kid is good”. The Summer of 2017 saw Mourinho bring Lukaku to Old Trafford for a reported £75,000,000.00.


His first season saw the Belgian return to his usual form of scoring a Premier League goal almost every 2 games. 16 goals and 7 assists in a debut season was a promising return, however his inconsistency would come back to haunt the forward. Despite an impressive 7 goals in the first 7 games, Lukaku only scored 3 goals in the following 14 Gameweeks. The second half of the season did improve for Romelu Lukaku scoring 6 goals in 13 games, however such a barren run between October to December was disappointing to say the least.


His second season in Manchester did not go well for the club or for the player. Despite being given 90 minutes in the majority of matches, to produce the type of from that had attracted the club to the Belgian. Lukaku only managed 12 goals from 32 appearances.


His inability to be a consistent goal scorer would lead to speculation as to whether his time was up at Old Trafford. According to reports it was not the lack of goals that would see Romelu shown the door by the new Manchester United manager, it would be his lack of fitness. His apparent lack of pace and versatility in the forward line saw Marcus Rashford taking his place and the Belgian was on his way to Milan.


By this point is was clear that Romelu Lukaku’s style of football was not going to be able to adapt to a variety of styles and although at times very effective it could sometimes appear to be very one dimensional. Throughout his entire Premier League career to date, the Belgian has scored 113 goals from 252 appearances. Incredibly only 5 of these goals were scored from outside of the box.


The Rebuild: Simplicity Is The Ultimate Sophistication


The forward returned to type in his first season for Inter Milan scoring 23 goals and 2 assists. An average of a goal every 1.5 games was not even achieved during the Belgians time at Everton. Lukaku would go one better during the following 2020/21 season scoring 24 goals in 36 games as well as 10 assists.

His style of play remained the same with not a single goal being scored from outside the box. The 6 yard box is certainly where the Belgian feels most comfortable and from an FPL perspective, fantasy managers do not care as a 4 yard tap in gets you the same points as a 35 yard screamer.


The fact that Lukaku has a vast amount of experience in the Premier League should mean he could hit the ground running, or at least hang around the six yard box. With the midfield and attacking wing back support of Havertz, Mount, Werner, Ziyech, Pulisic, James and Chilwell to supply silver plated service to him up front. In my opinion, Lukaku has no excuses not to score a personal best number of Premier League goals in a single season.


From an FPL perspective I fear he will never shake off his inconsistency and while he could score a hat-trick against clubs battling for Premier League survival, this season has the potential to be the toughest one yet. The Belgian is going to have to find a way of scoring past well drilled defences and accept there are a number of colleagues who have a keen eye for goal.


With Chelsea now equipped with a traditional target man up front it will be interesting to see how Lukaku is deployed. His hold up play could be extremely useful for whichever midfielders are deployed on the flanks and suddenly could make the cheaper Chelsea midfielders a more attractive proposition than the Belgian forward.


In FPL, forwards can at times being considered poor value for money. With 4 points for a goal their often high price tags may be hard to justify but good value or not, the potential they have of hauling can make them an expensive asset not to own.


At £11.5m, for Romelu to be considered decent value, the Belgian forward would need to score approximately 20 goals and 10 assists to bring him up to the standard of Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy or Bruno Fernandes. Lukaku has surpassed 20 goals in his last two campaigns in Italy, however it has not been the case in England since the 2016/17 season with Everton.


The Belgian forward does still seem to find fixtures against higher placed teams more challenging, so I would be patient until the ideal run of fixtures appears on the calendar before I would consider transferring him into my squad. Taking all of the above into consideration, there are many alternative options to select from. However, Chelsea’s fixtures do become more favourable from Gameweek 7 and by then we should have a good understanding of how they are playing and how Romelu Lukaku has adapted to being back at Stamford Bridge.


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