There is perhaps no striker’s name in England on the lips of more than that of Romelu Lukaku. The massive 6 foot 3 tall Belgian has begun to show why he was labelled the next Didier Drogba upon arriving at Stamford Bridge from Anderlecht’s Constant Vanden Stock Stadium in 2011. Then, it legitimately looked like the ball boy would score before him. He was terrible; but he was understandably terrible. Being in the shadow of a club legend would never be easy and at a precocious 18 years old he struggled to fit in. In total he mustered 15 scoreless games for Chelsea before moving to Everton for a (still) club record £28 million. Interestingly, he would show glimpses of what he could become on loan at West Bromwich Albion and at Everton itself.
Nevertheless, Lukaku was still extremely raw and it would be a process of learning for the young Belgian. We often forget that don’t we? He’s 22 but a beast in every sense football related. His first touch was still suicidal and his ability to hold up play and bring others into the game was still woefully inadequate. He didn’t and probably would never have gotten a chance at Chelsea then with the prevailing mentality at the club and with his then level of personal maturity. He let his mouth do the talking instead of his football and promptly faced the same guillotine felt by Daniel Sturridge and Kevin De Bruyne faced after a striker clear out in 2014. Not terrible company to find yourself in.
There were still growing pains as the man child slowly became a man. The first season saw him scoring at a goal every two games despite displaying the technical weaknesses and poor first touch which forced Chelsea to look to those such as Diego Costa in the first place. The sophomore season in his new deal was a tough examination of the man, he struggled and Everton struggled. The charm of Roberto Martinez began to sour a bit and Lukaku was at the centre of it all. However, the signs are now there that the big man is rapidly moving away from his past inadequacies as a striker and while still nowhere near the finished article he has taken the English league by the scruff of its neck in 2015/16.
More than half baked
The most glaring improvements in his game are an improvement on his touch, the ability to use his physicality and size to maximum effect, his passing, a calm but devastating finisher’s instinct has developed, and he can now bring Ross Barkley and Gerard Deulofeu into the game more where their considerable talents can work for him. Taking a look at how he scores his goals and the positions he takes up he is startlingly similar to Daniel Sturridge himself, a member of the Chelsea reject club. They both have this ability to ghost in behind defenses with a turn of pace and both even do so with very similar mannerisms. Of course there are obvious differences, Sturridge is as technically gifted as strikers playing in England come while Lukaku is more about using his size. Lukaku is also more rounded in terms of scoring. He has scored seven goals with his preferred left foot but four each have come with his right foot and from his head while the Liverpool man is more one footed.
Fifteen goals and five assists thus far have been enough to turn more than a few heads and Manchester United in their current plight must be considering the prospect. Everton are notoriously hard sellers and it might take a substantial investment to prize away Everton’s goalscorer. His manager has said he won’t part easily with his three talented youngsters, Barkley, John Stones, and Lukaku. What should give suitors hope is the following statement that he would not force anybody unwilling to play for the club to do so. His mind must have changed after the Stones saga but only time will reveal. United are desperate and the world knows it. Goals have come inconsistently and the summer window will be viewed as another opportunity to correct that.
Man. United have splashed the cash but they still find themselves with an adequate and unbalanced squad, maybe more so than before van Gaal took the reigns. It is now incumbent on Ed Woodward, van Gaal and company to focus on the most troublesome areas before padding the midfield with 30+ year old former world class players. Whichever striker comes in to bolster the sometimes limp attack must have a supporting cast capable of creating more than 8.1 chances per game which has led to a paltry tally of just under 1.3 goals scored per game. To note, Everton have 9.4 and 1.7, respectively. Chelsea in a nightmare season have 14 and almost 1.33 per.
Man. United should be looking towards a wide player that is different in style to what is currently at the club and an attacking midfielder/supporting striker capable of easing the burden on Juan Mata. It’s all too predictable at United. We all know what each player can and will do in attack as is the sum total of their current respective skillsets. Young will push it onto his right and cross, Mata will come inside and play his long cross to the back post, and Memphis Depay will try to dribble past everybody. Man. United must realise that the best attacking teams have multiple varied threats that constantly do the unexpected. Will Lukaku be the answer if United finally gets it right in the transfer market? A lot of moving parts are there to the puzzle but Lukaku should move for his own advancement and Man United are looking out yonder. He is one of a few that would make sense especially given his potential and upside. If he can continue to develop and refine his game, and his faults are some of the more easily corrected, then United (and other bigger clubs) will come knocking.