Everton dramatically signed 20 year old Chelsea forward Romelu Lukaku in the final stages of what was an unusually positive transfer deadline day for the club . The deal -supposedly for as much as £5m or as little as £3m depending on who you believe – will keep him at L4 until the end of the season .
With fellow forward Victor Anichebe moving to WBA – who supposedly also tried to ‘swoop’ for Lukaku – our forward line certainly has more substance to it than it did pre-window, and the big hope is that the big Belgian can provide the antidote to the slow build up play and lack of end product that has characterised our opening three games of the season and recent campaigns.
The Lukaku deal is good for the toffees on numerous levels. Looking at our biggest weakness in seasons gone by it’s the inability to convert chances and the consequent reliance on defending and having to grind out clean sheets. The former Anderlecht man represents probably the best overall package of physical / technical attributes we have had in a forward since Louis Saha’s early vintage in his first seasons at the club.
Clearly it’s his goals which make Lukaku the big differential to what we currently have at the club- the big Belgian bagged 17 goals from just 20 starts last season – and boasted an impressive goals per minute ratio of slotting every 117 minutes, which was the third best in the top flight.
The Belgian forward is a player who can score from inside or outside the box and has decent composure in front of goal, capable of power finishes or accurate slots. Although he’s particularly ruthless with his left foot with 7 goals last season, he was equally adept with his right that provided 5 goals. Indeed, he was one of only 3 players to score 3+ PL goals with left foot, right foot & head last season.
His shooting in general is pretty ace, with 66% accuracy to Jelavic’s 47% from his 97 shots last season – making him the 13th most prolific forward in the league for efforts on goal. The below video shows a snapshot of his goals and assists last season;
Whereas Moyes looked for players primarily good with their back to goal or battering ram style players, Lukaku – like Kone – has a touch more quality on the ground as well as the physique required to enable them to play.
He used this power and acceleration to take on and beat his opponent on 31 of the 59 occasions he attempted to do so last season and such ability to drive beyond defenders is something we have had problems with. Anichebe can go beyond players but doesn’t necessarily take the ball with him, whilst Jelavic and his limited pace enabled him to beat his man a feeble 6 times last season.
In the air Lukaku also has the build to force defenders back and win the ball in the air, using his 6ft 3inch physique to win 44% of his aerial duels – significantly better than Jelavic and Kone – and picked up 4 goals with his head last season. This aerial prowess will be particularly crucial with Fellaini’s defection to Man United.
The below visual shows roughly how West Brom used him as an ‘out ball’ with long pitched balls into dangerous areas of the pitch, predominantly into the channels where there is more space to receive and then drive at defenders. Martinez we know isn’t going to play route one football but it would surely be illogical to bring someone like Lukaku to the club and not play to his strengths.
Steve Clarke used him as a substitute 15 times last season which may seem bizarre given the limited competition for places but the logic used by the dour Scot was that his usual starter Shane Long would ‘wear out’ the opposing centre halves in the first 60 mins, leaving Lukaku free to steamroller them in the final 30 min of games, something he did to ruthless effect in the last game of the season against Man United with 3 goals.
On the ball
On the ball Lukaku boasts betting passing accuracy than Jelavic although his 72% accuracy is below his new team mate Arouna Kone. He is a creative force and links play adequately and is competent in creating chances for teammates – last season he teed up a colleague to the tune of 36 chances, predominantly from wide areas. Unlike Jelavic and the now departed Anichebe, Lukaku has a decent first touch, doesn’t look awkward when trapping the ball, and can bring midfielders into play much more effectively than the players we already have.
Lukaku doesn’t have too many weak points to his game. He’s not a fluid player who will play intricate one twos in and around the box like a Suarez type but in Baines, Barkley and Mirallas we have clever players in the roster already who can do that. Given his age he lacks a bit of experience to make the full use of his frame and this I’m sure will be a development area he will look to improve on to enable him to win more free kicks and impose himself even more on games.
If there was an issue its that the loan fee – rumoured to be as much as £5m. This, along with us supposedly picking up the full tab for Barry’s £6m per year wage, is around £10m on two players who potentially won’t be at the club next season, which is Brighthouse economics from the club.
Lukaku is a very decent piece of business for the Blues and could provide the key difference in turning draws into wins over the course of the season. Our woes in the final third this season have already been laid bare with a sorry 2 goals from 3 league games in the league. Lukaku has a good mentality, is keen to develop and offers the physical prowess that Fellaini provided last season plus greater power and a significantly more clinical goal threat. In summary, he is a player Evertonians should look forward to watching this season.