Content Editor at Free Super Tips, Alex was born in the shadow of Old Trafford and is an avid Man Utd fan. After graduating from university he combined his love of football, writing and betting to join FST and now closely follows goings-on in all of the top European leagues.
Ben White calling in sick for Arsenal on Sunday was the equivalent of a sixth former skipping school after realising they have made a huge mistake by taking up physics.
The newly signed Arsenal defender had already endured a difficult first day at school as the Gunners were beaten by Brentford. How on earth would he be able to keep Romelu Lukaku quiet?
The answer? He wouldn’t have.
Lukaku was simply unstoppable on his return to England, making his 16th appearance for Chelsea and scoring his first goal. That stat alone tells you just how far the Belgian hitman has come since his Stamford Bridge departure seven years ago.
Improved Lukaku now the complete forward
Of course, it’s not like he’s been floating around the footballing ether since that departure. He netted 87 goals in 166 appearances for Everton and, while his move to Old Trafford was widely viewed as a failure, Lukaku still scored a more-than-respectable 42 goals in 96 outings for Manchester United.
His two seasons at Inter Milan have honed him into the epitome of a complete forward, though. His first touch and build-up play has improved dramatically and he’s leaner than he was in Manchester. The results speak for themselves: 64 goals in 95 competitive appearances for I Nerazzurri, with his latest 24-goal haul in Serie A leading Inter to their first league title since 2009/10 and breaking Juventus’ nine-year stranglehold on the division.
Enough about the past, though. What about the present and, more importantly, the future?
It took just 14 minutes for Lukaku to find the net on his second debut for Chelsea and the goal itself proved any doubters of this new and improved striker wrong in emphatic fashion.
Receiving a ball to feet, he held off the Arsenal defender like he wasn’t even there, laying it off before turning and muscling past the defensive line at speed, screaming for Reece James to play the ball into his path. James obliged and Lukaku slotted in from about three yards.
That was far from the end of his involvement in the game. He terrorised the hosts’ back line throughout and was inches from doubling his tally with a powerful header. Thomas Tuchel stated that Lukaku was the missing piece for Chelsea, and it certainly looked that way on Sunday.
Chelsea most likely to upset City’s apple cart
The Blues – sitting joint-top of the table alongside Liverpool – are now clear second-favourites in the Premier League title race at 11/4, behind Manchester City. Lukaku is priced the same to finish as top goalscorer, edging out Mohamed Salah at 9/2 and leading the market after two weeks of top-flight action.
And honestly, it’s hard to argue with the bookies. Lukaku had only hit 20+ league goals in a single season once before his move to Inter, where he managed 23 and 24 goals respectively in his two years there. He certainly didn’t look like his time in Italy had dimmed his Premier League pedigree and a 20-goal haul is definitely reachable for the prolific striker.
As far as Chelsea are concerned, it’s not just this missing piece to the jigsaw that is exciting about them. They have a genuinely world-class manager in Thomas Tuchel, the confidence of winning a Champions League last season and a squad as deep as the ocean.
Let’s take Sunday as an example. They beat a supposed ‘Big Six’ rival despite having N’Golo Kante, Hakim Ziyech, Timo Werner, Ben Chilwell and Thiago Silva on the bench. They have a squad as deep and as talented as Manchester City, a Champions League winning manager and one of the best strikers in world football.
It’s hard to argue they’re anything other than serious title contenders.
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