March has been a busy, noisy month, with all eyes on the title race and the Champions League knockout rounds, so perhaps we can be excused for letting Romelu Lukaku fly under the radar a bit.
In case you haven't really checked on the blue half of Liverpool lately, they have won four in a row to put themselves firmly in Europa League contention for next season. They even have a slim chance of pipping Arsenal to fourth, which would be tremendously hilarious. The man who has played a large part in making that run happen is, unsurprisingly, Romelu Lukaku.
You may remember Lukaku cooling off after a hot start (five goals in five matches) - evidenced also by all the "What was Mourinho thinking?" headlines disappearing - then suffering an ankle injury, which put him out for all of February. Though he picked up several assists, at the time of the injury, he had had just one goal in his last ten Premier League games. Since making his return at the beginning of March, he's scored three in four. And one more in the FA Cup loss away to Arsenal for good measure. Even without his tentacles, Lukaku's back and back with a vengeance!
On an interesting note, at least one Everton writer thinks that a large part of Romelu's Renaissance is down to one man: Duncan Ferguson. In a sequence of events that we'd no doubt love to see with, say, Didier Drogba, Roberto Martinez promoted the Everton legend from his youth coaching position to first-team coach on February 20th. Coincidence or not, it's probably beneficial for the big Belgian to pick up some tips from the big bully that was Duncan Ferguson, as long as those tips don't include techniques for getting himself thrown in prison for on-pitch incidents.
Lukaku now has 13 goals (and about half as many assists) in 25 appearances for Everton. Not spectacular but not terrible either, yet the media narrative had started to shift towards linking him with permanent moves to various destinations across England and Europe anyway. When he was scoring for fun, we were fools for letting him go. When he was struggling for goals, we were ready to sell him. I guess in the media universe, the option of him simply returning to Chelsea next season to slot comfortably into the two (three, if I'm feeling incredibly hopeful) vacancies simply doesn't exist.
Yet, that's exactly what I'm hoping and expecting to see. It's the sensible, obvious option. Lukaku made a big splash at inconsequential West Bromwich Albion, but he has now proven himself capable of leading the line at a club that has contended for European places all season. He's fought through a slump in form and a fairly major injury and has become stronger for it. In the preseason he talked about improvement - mental, physical, and hopefully technical as well. Has he managed all that Everton? Maybe? Maybe not?
I hope so.
God I hope so. After all, his time is
last year now next season!