Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku makes instant impression on return to Chelsea to scored his first goal inside 15 minutes on his debut against Arsenal at the Emirates
The starting striker, Romelu Lukaku today does the initial hold-up from Mateo Kovacic’s pass to keep the attacking move going for Chelsea, and he puts himself in great position to score in the six-yard box by easily shrugging Arsenal defender Pablo Marí off him.
This was men against boys which, given Romelu Lukaku first arrived at Chelsea as a raw teenager 10 years ago and returns as one of the world’s finest strikers, was accurate in more ways than one.
Chelsea were simply too good for Arsenal who have now played two, lost two and have not even scored. Chelsea were too good, too strong, too skilful, too well-organised, too competitive. The differences went on and on.
Lukaku got his goal inside 15 minutes, having not scored in 15 appearances for Chelsea during his first spell at the club and the strike summed this match up. The difference he made to Chelsea – who are bona fide, genuine Premier League title contenders, and the difference between them and Arsenal.
Following his £97.5million move from Inter Milan and on his return to the west Londoners Lukaku did precisely what Chelsea want. As the away fans chanted his name at a corner Lukaku tapped the club badge on his shirt. This appears set to be a very happy reunion.
For his goal the 28 year old held the ball up against Pablo Mari, like he was fending off an over-eager puppy, and released it back to Mateo Kovavic who picked out Reece James unmarked on the right. The wing-back’s low cross was precise and for all of Mari’s efforts to try and impede him Lukaku was in the six-yard area to tuck it into the net. Mari ended up on the ground having thrown his arms in the air. It was not a good look for Arsenal although it was a textbook example of what Chelsea hoped for from Lukaku.
It was his first ever goal against Arsenal and was also his 114th in the Premier League – taking him ahead of Ian Wright in the all-time list. There will be many more to come. And with that Arsenal’s optimism was burst. The next pass backwards by them was booed and the fans frustration was bubbling over. There were more boos at half-time and it was as if those fans had never been away.
Mikel Ateta had summoned up a siege mentality saying “they” (whoever they are) could not break Arsenal’s “spirit” and here it had been broken. Chelsea smashed straight through it and although Arsenal were significantly improved in the second-half it was never enough. Maybe instead of worrying about outside noise Arteta should have organised his team better in that first period. Even the most basic of coaching courses would have pointed out, for example, that James needed to stopped down the right. Instead he remained unmarked.
Arsenal were without their £50 million signing Ben White after he tested positive for Covid but that was not the problem. It was simple organisation and, well, not being good enough. Three more times James should have picked out Lukaku who bumped and barged – or simply did so with clever movement – his way into space and Arsenal only escaped because the delivery was not good enough. Mari finally got close to Lukaku and was booked for bringing him down.
And then Chelsea scored again and – guess what? – it was James who claimed it. The move began as Chelsea worked their way down the left with Marcos Alonso’s pass infield intended for Lukaku. Granit Xhaka slid in but the ball ran to Mount who quickly, again, found James who, again, was unmarked and slammed the ball high into the net.