One current topic of debate, in which the opposing opinions only seem to be getting stronger, is whether or not the Chelsea management were in err to send Romelu Lukaku out on loan for a second season. The problem with the debate, from what I can see, is that both sides of the argument are looking toward the exact same things for vindication of their stance. Those who believe he should have stayed at the club point towards his excellent early form for Everton, with four goals in his first four games, as evidence not only was he good enough for Chelsea but also better than any of our other strikers (all of whom are yet to score in the league). Fans that supported the clubs decision however, can just as easily incite the same facts and statistics in order to argue just how good the Merseyside club will be, for the development of our young centre forward, with things already having gone so well.
My opinion is simply that what is best for Lukaku this year is what’s best for Chelsea long term. I think this opportunity to play for a leading Premier League team, under a very good manager, without the pressure of being in a title contending side and with relatively little competition for his place, the move was absolutely ideal. Of course we would have been stronger had he stayed, but anybody who wants to prioritise trophies this season over the progress of a 20 year old player with the potential to be as good as any CF currently in Europe, in my opinion, should have the seriousness of their commitment to the continuing performance of the club called into question – and the same goes for anybody who think Courtois should currently be sitting on the Chelsea bench, helping Cech to warm up.
Already it’s clear Mourinho is tired of being asked questions about Lukaku during his press conferences, which given the nature of the questions I’ve heard, I think is quite understandable. Firstly, this idea that Lukaku’s start for Everton might have disappointed Chelsea is a ridiculous, almost insulting one. I’ve even heard a commentator suggest that Jose must be sighing in regret every time Lukaku scores. The implication of these comments that the management would prefer Lukaku to be struggling and so vindicate their decision to temporarily offload him, is too ridiculous to even contemplate. Mourinho’s comments about it being one thing to score for Everton and another to score for Chelsea I also think have been unfairly criticised. Some it seems misconstrued the statement to bluntly mean that Lukaku isn’t yet good enough, rather than the pretty obvious fact that goals for Everton doesn’t necessarily entail goals for Chelsea, as the some reporters have so tactlessly implied.
Some of those who opposed the loan might contest, when faced with an argument about Romelu needing game time, that their wish would have been for Lukaku to have stayed and been first choice striker every week, as opposed to competing and being rotated with Torres and Eto’o (despite this being what obviously would have happened). I think it’s worth asking ourselves the question, even if he had stayed as first choice striker, would that have even been better for him? Despite having both changed managers and signed new players, Everton are clearly a more tactically settled club than Chelsea at the moment. With Jose working to try and change the style and system of the squad to be more solid and direct with their pressing, whilst the end product should be perfect for a striker with the attributes of Lukaku, with almost all of the midfielders in support having to adapt their games, he would have found it much harder to contribute in my opinion. With Everton already playing a similar style to how Chelsea want to be playing (albeit to an obviously lower level) – Lukaku, in theory, should be able to slot straight into the side next August, hopefully coming off of a 20/25 goal season and with his confidence, techinique and profile all massively improved.
As for the strikers currently at the club, whilst collectively some way behind the level of the Manchester clubs forward lines, and even arguably slightly behind Liverpool’s, I’m not pessimistic about what they can contribute to the season. Torres was excellent against Tottenham and if he can continue in the same vein after his injury then nobody will be thinking about Lukaku during the matches. When the Spaniard is taking players on with that frequency and level of aggression, he can still run ragged any centre half partnership in the league. Samuel Eto’o meanwhile has admitted to struggling to adapt to the physicality of Premier League, but has shown sufficient energy and intelligence in his play to suggest he can contribute to the side, potentially more so toward the end of the season, where the experience and winning culture comes more into play.
Two final points to make are that firstly, after his two-goal performance in Croatia last Friday and in a World Cup year, game time is also important in order for Lukaku to take what is surely his rightful place in the Belgian side ahead of Christian Benteke, in time for Brazil. He is already in a different league to the Aston Villa forward in my opinion, with also immeasurably more potential. The experience he’ll get from fronting one of the best sides at a World Cup in Brazil is also something that will benefit Chelsea, considerably.
And finally, regarding his recent comments about wanting to help Everton to finish higher than Chelsea in the league this season, having read the transcript it seems obvious to me that there was no bitterness towards Chelsea in his words whatsoever. Simply this was just a case of a player expressing loyalty toward the side who are going to give him chances to start all year – some might have found his phrasing unfortunate, personally I think he’d have stupid to say anything different.