There was so much excitement in the air when it was confirmed that Romelu Lukaku would be returning to Chelsea. The striker, who left Stamford Bridge in 2014, had established himself as one of the world’s best goal scorers whilst at Inter Milan, and returned to have another crack at the Premier League, having disappointed during his time at Manchester United.
When he got on the scoresheet in his debut against London rivals Arsenal, you could forgive Chelsea fans for getting carried away. His first few appearances for the club brought a flurry of goals, and it seemed as though the Belgian was the missing piece of the puzzle as far as challenging for the Premier League title was concerned.
But in Chelsea’s last seven games in all competitions, Lukaku has failed to find the back of the net. To make matters worse, the 28-year-old limped off in the Champions League game against Malmö, and now faces a spell on the sidelines.
It’s hard to pinpoint what has gone wrong for Lukaku. The team has not suffered too much despite his lack of goals. Wins against Tottenham, Southampton and Brentford have ensured that Chelsea are top of the Premier League table at the time of writing, and you feel that once Lukaku returns to fitness, he’ll have a major say in Chelsea’s chances in the odds to win Premier League 2021/22.
That said, when you spend £97 million on a striker, especially as current European champions, you expect more than what Lukaku has so far delivered. You can’t say he hasn’t had chances either. Numerous opportunities have come and gone, with the Belgian blazing over the bar or fluffing his lines on a number of occasions. Even the much-maligned Timo Werner has outshone Lukaku in the goals department in recent matches.
Usually, in a situation like this, a striker just needs ‘one to go in off his backside’ to restore his confidence and get back on the goal trail. But Lukaku’s injury now means he faces a few weeks without football, and even more time to dwell on his missed opportunities in front of goal.
His form of late has been reminiscent of his time at Manchester United, where he performed well in patches but ultimately found it hard to hit the heights expected of him. Heading to Serie A was exactly what Lukaku needed, a league where his speed and physicality were perfectly suited, and he could rack up mountains of goals.
In returning to the Premier League, there is a sense that Lukaku feels he has unfinished business, that he departed without showing the best side of himself. The way he kicked things off at Chelsea suggested this was a new man, but lately that confidence has dwindled, and there will be huge pressure on his shoulders when he returns from injury to maintain Chelsea’s standing in the Premier League betting tips.
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel defended his decision to start Lukaku in the 4-0 win over Malmö: “If I knew before I wouldn’t have done it. It was important he was on the pitch and he started very strong. I spoke with him about the situation, told him that I think he has some mental fatigue.
“But he is our No 9 and is our reference. We wanted to build our attack today with Mason [Mount] and Timo around him and I had the strong belief that in a Champions League match he could turn things around and turn things around in scoring and being decisive, which he did because he was super strong in our start. Without him maybe it’s not 2-0. So I don’t regret it.”
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