Romelu Lukaku’s finally back at the Bridge! We had to wait a little bit to see him in action after signing, but it was definitely worth the wait. What a (second) debut it was! Following in Didier Drogba’s footsteps, he made sure to torment Arsenal’s backline all game. (Ed.note: Philippe Senderos was probably having some nightmarish flashbacks, if he were watching.)
It didn’t take long for Lukaku to stamp his authority on the game. Just fifteen minutes into his debut, the 28-year-old gave Chelsea the lead, starting the move by showing off his (new to us) impressive hold-up skills and then finishing it off with a completely unmarked run into the box to score from Reece James’ cross.
Why was the big, rather easily noticeable striker completely unmarked, you might ask? Well, that was because while making his run, Lukaku made Pablo Marí fall over like Humpty Dumpty, while the other center back, Rob Holding, was nowhere to be found, having been drawn to Kai Havertz in the move. While initially, this may look like an easy goal, it was Lukaku’s strength, holdup play and movement that made it look easy in the first place.
Those three qualities were far too much for Arsenal to handle. Time after time, Lukaku won his duels against his marker(s), and it often felt like they could do nothing to stop him.
This wasn’t the Lukaku of the previous 15 Chelsea appearances (and no goals). Lukaku’s come home a different player, a complete player, the proverbial boy returned as a grown man. The physical and technical qualities work in sync, combined with movement, awareness, and everything else necessary for success at the top level. Whereas before Lukaku often looked like a great athlete playing football, now he now looks like a great footballer ... playing football.
Romelu Lukaku’s Chelsea debut:— ChelseaFCBlogs (@ChelseaFCBlogs_) August 22, 2021
95% passing accuracy
8 duels won
3 chances created
2/3 dribbles completed
2 fouls won
1 hit the woodwork
The perfect start! @RomeluLukaku9 pic.twitter.com/gdSeOc5oTU
Once derided, rightly or wrongly, for a horrible first touch and no skills beyond the physical, Lukaku showed close control, accurate passing (95%!), precise and constant movement, and already strong link-up play despite training for just four days with his new teammates.
Also, for a player once known as a flat track bully capable only of dominating small teams who may be the Premier League’s laughing stock, this match performance does ... well actually nothing to change that perception. League leaders Liverpool and Virgil van Dijk coming up next weekend though!
Lukaku almost capped off his excellent performance with a second goal, but unfortunately his powerful header was deflected onto the crossbar by a most excellent save from Bernd Leno. But that’s a minor complaint. Let the good times roll!