Meet Chelsea’s newest signing, Romelu Lukaku. Aged 18 years, the former star for Belgium club Anderlecht is often called “the new Didier Drogba,” so it’s fitting that he has signed for the club he called his favorite team to play on the same team as his idol.
Lukaku, who placed second in the Belgium version of the Golden Boot and won the Ebony Boot, joins a club with a brand new manager, but a lot of people playing the same position as him. He’s joining a club that already has a lot of strikers. This part is where it gets interesting. Chelsea is a team that will eventually (sooner than later) need to get younger to keep their status and they made good by hiring the best young striker that they could get (let’s assume Neymar stays at Santos).
But in terms of offensive options such as strikers and wingers, Chelsea also has:
- Fernando Torres, who needs to start (despite being doubtful for the opening game this weekend after suffering a concussion for Spain against Italy yesterday),
- Drogba, who wants to start and may need to start depending whether Torres heats up soon,
- Anelka, who wants to be in the mix,
- Kalou, who will want playing time,
- Malouda, who would want to start and
- Sturridge, who really should get playing time at the club.
On the surface it seems too easy. Dump Anelka while you can get a few pounds for him. Maybe even dump Malouda or Kalou, or even (as much as I hate to say it) Drogba so the strikers aren’t so plentiful and the kids can get a shot. But that’s easier said than done, so what does Andre Villas-Boas do?
At one point, considering that both Drogba and Anelka’s contracts are expiring soon, it would seem like a good move for the club to get the Lukaku‘s and Sturridge’s some playing time to prepare for the future when they are on the pitch full time. Since club owner Roman Abramovich sees the Champions League as the main prize there is, the idea that you can pretty much field two different sets of strikers for EPL games and for Champions League games. It’s possible that by January all of this will be a moot point and Chelsea makes the big transfer of one of the mainstays. Everything is in play, but the main point is that something would have to be done.
And what of Didier Drogba? It’s interesting to see how the man’s career has gone when you think back to August, 2010. He entered last summer with U.S. Vanity Fair covers, leading Ivory Coast into the World Cup with a lot of great off-the-pitch publicity and then the Premiership season started. Drogba then contributed heavily to Chelsea’s hot start, got malaria, watched as the club signed another world class striker, occasionally didn’t start while the club and everyone else waited on Torres and then witnessed the media and everyone else call for his sale while the other half called for him to stay. And then the club signed a younger version of him. Does Lukaku effectively poison the well for Drogba’s temperament at Chelsea? Does he decide he wants out (maybe to Olympique Marseille?) half way through the season as the club has to shuffle between various strikers?
All in all, the Lukaku signing is both great for the team long term (assuming he pans out) and a nightmare for Villas-Boas in the short term. If he can effectively make this work, do we laud him as a tactical genius who won’t be outgunned this season? If Villas-Boas fails at creating an emphasis and a focus up front does he get vilified for the club he inherited?
It’s the most slept-on subplot in the league and it creates a fascinating atmosphere when you factor in the personalities, talents and overall strategy.