Lukaku could impress against his parent club
Though he won't be playing, the spectre of one man will loom large over Saturday's West Brom v Chelsea match: Romelu Lukaku.
November 12th, 2012
The enormous Belgian forward, on loan from the Blues to the Baggies, has been quite a hit at The Hawthorns. Mostly playing off the bench, he has shown the ability and cunning to muscle his way past Premier League defences with goals against Reading, Liverpool and Newcastle. Most witnesses say he is far from the finished article, but that he clearly has he potential to become something very special indeed. But something Chelsea need and want as part of their first team squad? We may soon be about to find out.
Lukaku’s loan deal is scheduled to last a year, though Baggies’ boss Steve Clarke recently confirmed that there was the potential for a break in January. With Fernando Torres struggling in recent games against Shakhtar Donetsk and Tottenham, many are starting to question whether a long-term investment in the £50m man will ever pay off and, despite scoring during Torres’ recent one-match suspension, sole replacement Daniel Sturridge doesn’t quite look the player to fill the void. Lukaku would offer something very different to both of them.
Several times this season, Chelsea have found themselves needing a more direct and forceful route to goal than their present squad offers. The trip to Swansea earlier this month was a perfect example of a match where Lukaku could surely have made an impact off the bench.
Would he fit into the Blues’ present 4-2-3-1 formation? Probably not. There have been calls in some quarters for Roberto Di Matteo to have a Plan B for when that formation does not work, and the big Belgian would add a completely different dimension.
With Victor Moses on the right and Eden Hazard or Juan Mata on the left, he could be the spearhead of a formation that switches artistic play behind the striker, to a 4-3-3 involving searing runs and bolting crosses. This is not a suggestion that Chelsea switch entirely, but that after an hour or so of picking at a reluctant lock, it might be worthwhile trying another key. Or perhaps, a sledgehammer.
Might Lukaku head back down the M1 in January? If reports are true, the player seems reluctant. He is getting football right now at West Brom – something which seems unlikely at Chelsea as long as Torres is there. Plus, Lukaku is developing nicely: another half-season in the Midlands might edge him that little bit further towards being the finished article.
Lukaku is still incredibly young – he doesn’t celebrate his 20th birthday until May, and there is plenty of time for him to forge a successful career at Stamford Bridge. But Saturday’s trip to The Hawthorns is a handy reminder for the Chelsea hierarchy of the the talent on their books; and an opportunity to think about how to avoid yet another young loanee being lost by the club.