I was dominant against Arsenal but I have a long way to go
“A dream? I’m not dreaming. Someday I’ll play here, you’ll see.”
One cannot have escaped the viral clip shared by the 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. It was among eight outings at Stamford Bridge in Chelsea blue, but few could fault the striker for feeling a little dissatisfied.
One of the best strikers in the world left the club he supported as a child after 15 games, 466 minutes, 19 shots and zero goals.
There was more to Lukaku’s desire to run for Chelsea than the badge on his chest, however; he wanted to follow in the footsteps of Didier Drogba, the legend of the Blues whose jersey he wore in this clip from Anderlecht.
That second Stamford Bridge arc is yet to come, but Lukaku only needed 15 minutes of his return to Chelsea to emulate Drogba.
Of the 164 goals Drogba has scored as a Chelsea player, 13 have come against Arsenal – four more than against any other team. There were braces in the 2005 Community Shield final and the 2007 EFL Cup, as well as a 2009 FA Cup semi-final winner, in addition to his eight Premier League goals.
Drogba intimidated Arsenal; So Sunday, determined this time to try his luck at Chelsea, Lukaku too.
Nine years and 360 days after his debut against Norwich, Lukaku made up for lost time with an opener that showed many of the talents that should make Chelsea true challengers for the Premier League title.
The 28-year-old has been cleared to face goal at Inter far more often than in an ultimately frustrating spell at Manchester United, bringing the ball to 3,040 yards in Serie A last season, but he also has continued to tie the game, involved in 34 open end-of-goal streaks. He was the beneficiary this time.
Mateo Kovacic shot a pass into Lukaku’s feet 30 yards from goal and he held the ball just long enough to have four Arsenal players around him as he sent him back to the former midfielder of Real Madrid.
Thomas Tuchel had explained how Chelsea wanted to replace Olivier Giroud with “the kind of profile who likes to play with his back to goal, who likes to hold the balls, who creates space for Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Christian Pulisic, who is ready to go. fight physically with the 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 James, the race was in the middle and there would be only one winner. After Arsenal’s terrible loss to Brentford, there had been a debate over how Ben White would handle Lukaku’s physical presence. With White put down by COVID-19, it was Pablo Mari who was dismissed by Lukaku to leave a simple finish.
Arsenal looked to learn the lesson, challenging Lukaku as quickly as possible afterwards, but even that worked against them. Granit Xhaka’s lunge at Lukaku 10 minutes before halftime saw the ball run in place of Mount, who again found James unmarked to score.
As with Drogba, Arsenal never seemed comfortable trying to contain Lukaku, who did not add to his initial goal but created three chances, played 15 duels, won two fouls and scored one. header in the 77th minute that Bernd Leno instinctively hit on the crossbar among eight efforts.
The last Chelsea forward to have managed 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. The former was a lesson from the sideline, however, with the much-maligned German striker scrapped for the new man and introduced only in the final minute of the 90s, offering just a fleeting glimpse of a formidable front two.
For Arsenal, meanwhile, the few positives came largely from the same men as last season – Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe and Kieran Tierney, at least in an offensive sense before his injury – when they knocked out Chelsea 3. -1 on Boxing Day, having entered the game 15th in the table and without a win in Sept.
The result inspired a vastly improved form, but their progress is pale next to Chelsea’s under Tuchel. Their signatures don’t compare to Lukaku either.
“We are trying to bring in the players we can afford, who right now can help us achieve what we want,” Mikel Arteta said this week, asking if Arsenal are operating at a “lower level”. “Chelsea would have a different plan,” he added.
The goal was Lukaku’s fourth against Arsenal, but he will support himself to add to that total depending on the apparent trajectory of both teams.
Only two years older than Drogba when he arrived in England, he has plenty of time to end his idol’s scoring in a game he dominated.