EPL

Lukaku emulates Chelsea hero Drogba and puts sorry Arsenal to the sword

By Sports Desk August 22, 2021

"Dream? I'm not dreaming. One day I'll play here, you'll see."

One cannot have escaped the viral clip shared by former club Anderlecht, as he completed his £97.5million transfer, of Romelu Lukaku visiting Chelsea's Stamford Bridge as a child.

Of course, Lukaku kept that promise in 2011 when he replaced Fernando Torres for the final seven minutes of a 3-1 home win over Norwich City. That was among eight outings at Stamford Bridge in Chelsea blue, but few could blame the forward for feeling a little unfulfilled.

One of the world's best strikers left the club he supported as a boy after 15 games, 466 minutes, 19 shots and zero goals.

There was more to Lukaku's desire to turn out for Chelsea than the badge on the chest, though; he wanted to follow in the footsteps of Didier Drogba, the Blues legend whose shirt he wore in that Anderlecht clip.

That second Stamford Bridge bow is still to come, but Lukaku needed only 15 minutes of his Chelsea return to emulate Drogba.

Of the 164 goals Drogba scored as a Chelsea player, 13 came against Arsenal – four more than he mustered against any other side. There were braces in triumphs in the 2005 Community Shield and 2007 EFL Cup final, as well as a winner in the 2009 FA Cup semi-final, on top of his eight Premier League strikes.

Drogba bullied Arsenal; therefore on Sunday, determined this time to take his chance at Chelsea, so did Lukaku.

Nine years and 360 days after that debut against Norwich, Lukaku made up for lost time with an opener that displayed many of the talents that look set to make Chelsea genuine challengers for the Premier League title.

The 28-year-old was allowed to face the goal at Inter far more often than during an ultimately frustrating spell at Manchester United, carrying the ball 3,040 metres in Serie A last season, but he also continued to link the play, involved in 34 goal-ending open play sequences. He was the beneficiary this time.

Mateo Kovacic fired a pass into Lukaku's feet 30 yards from goal and he held on to the ball just long enough to have four Arsenal players around him by the time he offloaded it back to the former Real Madrid midfielder.

Thomas Tuchel had spoken of how Chelsea wanted a replacement for Olivier Giroud with "the kind of profile who likes to play with his back to goal, who likes to hold up balls, who creates space for Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Christian Pulisic, who is ready to fight physically with defenders". It was Reece James, rather than Werner, Havertz or Pulisic, who found himself all alone thanks to Lukaku's distraction.

When Kovacic snapped a pass outside to James, the race was on in the middle and there was only going to be one winner. After Arsenal's awful defeat at Brentford, there had been debate about how Ben White would deal with Lukaku's physical presence. With White laid low by COVID-19, it was Pablo Mari who was swatted aside by Lukaku to leave a simple finish.

Arsenal sought to learn their lesson, challenging Lukaku as quickly as possible thereafter, but even that went against them. Granit Xhaka's lunge on Lukaku 10 minutes before half-time saw the ball run instead for Mount, who found James unmarked again to score himself.

As with Drogba, Arsenal never looked comfortable attempting to contain Lukaku, who did not add to his early goal but created three chances, contested 15 duels, won two fouls and counted a 77th-minute header that Bernd Leno instinctively touched onto the crossbar among eight efforts.

The last Chelsea forward to have seven or more shots against Arsenal in a league encounter was, of course, Drogba (in 2006).

Tuchel has spoken at length about how Lukaku's signing can benefit Werner. Up first was a lesson from the sidelines, however, with the much-maligned Germany attacker dropped for the new man and only introduced in the final minute of the 90, providing just a fleeting glimpse of a fearsome front two.

For Arsenal, meanwhile, the scant positives largely came from the same men as last season – Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe and Kieran Tierney, at least in an attacking sense before his injury – when they stunned Chelsea 3-1 on Boxing Day, having entered the game 15th in the table and winless in seven.

That result inspired a vastly improved run of form, but their progress pales next to Chelsea's under Tuchel. Their signings do not compare to Lukaku either.

"We are trying to bring the players that we can afford, that in this moment can help us to achieve what we want," Mikel Arteta said this week, asked if Arsenal were operating on a "lower level". "Chelsea would have a different plan," he added.

The goal was Lukaku's fourth against Arsenal, but he will back himself to add to that total based on the apparent trajectory of the two teams.

Only two years older than Drogba was when he arrived in England, there is plenty of time to close on his idol's tally in a fixture he dominated.

Related items

  • Napoli bring in hot-shot Simeone from Hellas Verona Napoli bring in hot-shot Simeone from Hellas Verona

    Napoli have completed the signing of striker Giovanni Simeone from Hellas Verona.

    Simeone, who is a son of Atletico Madrid boss Diego, has joined Napoli on an initial loan with an obligation to buy if certain clauses are triggered.

    Napoli announced the signing on Thursday, with Simeone opting for the number 18 shirt.

    The 27-year-old has spent the past six seasons in Serie A with Genoa, Fiorentina, Cagliari and Verona, whom he only joined permanently in June after impressing on loan.

    He scored 17 goals in the Italian top flight last season – a tally bettered only by Lautaro Martinez (21), Dusan Vlahovic (24) and Ciro Immobile (27) – while assisting five more.

    Five-cap Argentina international Simeone's arrival at Napoli comes on the back of the club's record goalscorer Dries Mertens departing on a free transfer this window.

    Napoli have also waved goodbye to fellow regular goalscorer Lorenzo Insigne since the end of last season, as well as David Ospina, Kalidou Koulibaly and Arkadiusz Milik.

    Luciano Spalletti's side are believed to be closing in on further deals for Giacomo Raspadori from Sassuolo and Tottenham's Tanguy Ndombele.

  • Raducanu plots free path to success after thrashing Azarenka Raducanu plots free path to success after thrashing Azarenka

    Emma Raducanu admitted she has been "too tense" in recent defeats and is aiming to play more freely as she prepares to defend her US Open title.

    Raducanu has struggled to follow up last year's shock win at Flushing Meadow, but she appears to have hit form at just the right time.

    The 19-year-old has beaten both Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka in straight sets during this week's Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati, dropping just four games against Williams and two against Azarenka.

    Her win against Azarenka on Wednesday was just Raducanu's third career victory against a top-25 opponent, after beating Belinda Bencic and Maria Sakkari on her way to winning last year's US Open.

    Speaking after her win against the Belarusian, Raducanu said: "I think I have tried a lot of things, and this year I think some matches, I have lost a lot of matches from leading situations and probably just played too tense.

    "I think that I just need to swing, and I just said that these two tournaments, or this tournament especially, I'm just going to swing freely and take that and see what happens."

    Raducanu also said she will wait until after the tournament to reflect on beating two multiple grand slam champions with relative ease.

    "I think after the tournament I actually have to take a step back and be like, 'Look, you just beat two unbelievable champions'," she said. "It's a pretty good achievement. You know how difficult the wins are to come by."

    The number 10 seed will face seventh seed Jessica Pegula in the third round in Cincinnati on Thursday.

  • Ronaldo 'doesn't have time' to be part of Man Utd project, says Nani Ronaldo 'doesn't have time' to be part of Man Utd project, says Nani

    Cristiano Ronaldo "does not have time" to stick around for another season at Manchester United, according to former team-mate Nani.

    Portugal international Ronaldo is reportedly seeking a move away from United just under a year after returning to the club from Juventus.

    However, a lack of viable options – with Chelsea and Bayern Munich said to have rejected the chance to sign him – has left the 37-year-old superstar in a tricky situation.

    Ronaldo's complicated situation has only been exacerbated following United's opening home defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion and a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Brentford.

    With United undergoing another rebuild under new manager Erik ten Hag, ex-United winger Nani can understand why his compatriot is looking to leave.

    "Times change and the reactions and attitude can change as well," Nani said on Rio Ferdinand's Vibe with Five podcast.

    "But, as we see, he's doing the same things as usual. He doesn't like to lose and he reacts when the team is not doing well. The only difference is that it's different times. 

    "He's playing again at Man United, but he's been all over the world doing well at different teams with different players.

    "He's in a team where the manager is trying to build a strong team, and it's not easy, it takes time. Cristiano doesn't have time to lose on building teams or waiting for next season. 

    "He wants to continue to be at the top, scoring goals, being the man. That's why the reaction is normal. We all have the wrong reactions sometimes."

    Ronaldo was recalled to United's starting line-up for the defeat to Brentford and had six shots, twice as many as any other player on the field, without finding the net.

    With their latest dismal defeat, United have started a Premier League campaign with back-to-back losses for the first time since the competition's inaugural campaign in 1992-93.

    Stretching back into last season, the Red Devils have now lost four successive league games for the first time since February 1979.

    Nani, who won four Premier League titles and the Champions League during his seven full seasons with United, has hit out at the attitude of the club's current crop of players.

    "I don't like to talk too much. I don't talk about players, but you can see there is no hunger, there is no attitude or desire to win in the club," he said.

    "You have a lot of talented players, but they don't want to get tired. If I had to get sweaty to win, I would. They prefer to not sweat.

    "You have talented players in the team with a lot of skills. They can shoot with their right foot and left, but the last game, no one was shooting at goal, everyone was passing."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.