Following loanee Romelu Lukaku’s more than impressive start to the Premier League season with the Toffees, scoring three goals and providing one assist in just two league appearances it begs the question to as why the 20 year-old, Belgian, is not currently leading the line for his parent club, Chelsea. The Belgium’s performance against Newcastle was so good that Everton manager, Roberto Martinez, described him as “unplayable”. Compare this with Chelsea’s current strike force who are yet to register a league goal between them.
Anyone who followed Chelsea’s pre season performances will know that Lukaku was a shining light for the Blues. With Mourinho seemingly preferring the Belgian to Fernando Torres and Demba Ba, many felt that this would be Lukaku’s breakthrough season at Stamford Bridge. Lukaku included, originally stating that was not open to a loan move.
The first seeds of doubt were drawn with Chelsea’s relentless attempt to pursue Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney. Having failed to land his man, Jose Mourinho turned to former player Samuel Eto’o, 32. Undoubtedly the three-times Champions League winner has been world-class throughout his career, but he has hardly set the Premier League alight since his arrival. Despite his high wage demands, capturing such a high-profile player on a free transfer seemed like a shroud piece of business on Chelsea’s behalf.
With Mourinho favouring the same 4-2-3-1 formation as previous Chelsea boss, Benitez, at least one of the four strikers would have to make way. The’Special One’ can be added to a growing list of Chelsea managers believing that he can restore Torres to his former glory. Therefore it was always unlikely that Chelsea would cash-in on the £50 million Spaniard. The obvious forward to make way was Ba. Mourinho understandably blocked his proposed loan move to Arsenal due to their title-contender status. However, what I cannot understand is how if Everton approached Chelsea to inquire as to the availability of Lukaku, they did not respond by offering Ba on loan instead with an option to sign the Senegalese man on a permanent basis. This would have been a win-win scenario for everyone involved. Everton would get to bolster their attacking options in an affordable manner, Ba moves to a level where his ability is more suited, and Lukaku remains at Chelsea where he can establish himself as a first-team regular.
Instead Mourinho let Lukaku go on loan, and he has his reasons. The charismatic Portuguese stated that “it’s one thing to play for Everton, and another to play for Chelsea” – and I have to agree. Though as the Chelsea front man you would expect to receive better service with the likes of Hazard, Mata, Oscar and co. lining up the ammunition, in reality the pressure cooker that is Stamford Bridge is an unforgiving environment. The Bridge has proved a ‘striker’s graveyard’ of recent – just ask Shevchenko, Crespo, Kezman and Torres. The last thing Chelsea fans want is to see Lukaku added to this notorious list. To succeed as a striker at Chelsea the most important attribute to have is a strong mentality. Lukaku’s woeful penalty miss in the European Super Cup final versus Bayern suggests that the 20 year-old does not yet maintain the Drogba-like mentality required. Mourinho was protecting his player by loaning him out to gain more premier league experience. This decision was made for the long-term benefit of the club and I expect in hindsight that it will be justified.
However, Chelsea have the small matter of competing for the league title this season. Against Tottenham, Torres had arguably his brightest half of football in a Chelsea shirt, up until he got sent off that is. Now having picked up an injury that will keep him out of action for a few weeks, this is likely to be yet another false-dawn of his stuttering career. Eto’o was never realistically going to instantly produce the kind of performances witnessed at Barcelona and then Inter Milan. Of course he needs time to adapt to the pace of the English game, having been playing in a less competitive league such as Russia for the past few seasons. Whether he is still capable of producing at the top level remains to be seen. Then there is Demba Ba. Although he scored some important goals in the second half of last season, most notably at Old Trafford in the FA Cup, he has been far from prolific for the blues. With starts proving hard to come by for the former Newcastle forward, it is difficult to see Ba firing Chelsea to Premier League glory.
As a Premier League defender I would much rather be facing any of these players than a youthful, vibrant, in-form Lukaku. The fact that there is no callback clause is ridiculous. If Lukaku continues to push Everton up the table and the Chlesea’s strikers continue to falter in front of goal then it could prove the difference in the title-race. Had Lukaku been given his chance this season I believe he would have blossomed into the ‘new Drogba’ all Chelsea fans crave.