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20 May 2022

Chelsea have reason to feel blue over Romelu Lukaku return

Chelsea have reason to feel blue over Romelu Lukaku return

Romelu Lukaku’s anonymous performance against Crystal Palace continued a difficult first season back at Chelsea following his club-record summer move.

The Belgium striker had just seven touches of the ball, a record low for a 90-minute Premier League appearance since Opta began collecting such data in 2003.

Having joined from Inter Milan for around £97million, Lukaku’s impact has not been what Chelsea would have wished – here, the PA news agency analyses his season to date.

Don’t Luk now

Lukaku has scored only five league goals and 10 in all competitions, two of those coming at the recent Club World Cup.

A game and a half against Aston Villa account for three of his five in the league, while he also scored in wins over Arsenal and Brighton. He scored in both Champions League fixtures against Zenit St Petersburg and against Chesterfield in the FA Cup before netting against Al Hilal and Palmeiras in the intercontinental competition.

He has just one goal in 548 minutes against Chelsea’s fellow ‘big six’ Premier League clubs, that coming against the Gunners in his first appearance of the season.

While there is around a third of the season to go, with the Blues still active in four competitions including in Sunday’s Carabao Cup final, that contrasts markedly with Lukaku’s form in recent years.

Only in his disappointing final season at Manchester United, when he started in only 22 of his 32 Premier League appearances and scored 12 league goals and 15 in all, has his output dipped to a similar level.

Prior to that he scored 25, 26 and 27 goals in successive seasons for Everton and United, including a career-best 25 league goals for the Toffees in 2016-17, while his two years at Inter brought him 23 and 24 in Serie A and his only 30-goal campaigns in all competitions.

In addition, Lukaku has not been credited with a single assist in any competition, though he did win the late penalty from which Jorginho rounded off a 3-1 Boxing Day win over Aston Villa.

The £97m super-sub?

Chelsea’s points-per-game total in the league with and without Lukaku in the side is identical at two points per game, though their goalscoring record paints him in a negative light.

They have scored a goal every 53.5 minutes with him on the field, 22 in 1,137 minutes, and one every 39.7 minutes without him – 27 in 1,073 minutes.

Those figures are heavily influenced by one particular game, October 23’s 7-0 win over Norwich which was aided by an own goal, a penalty and Ben Gibson’s red card, but demonstrate that Lukaku has not been a difference-maker.

Interestingly, he has often affected the game when coming on as a substitute – Chelsea’s winners against Watford and Leeds in December came shortly after his introduction, albeit without him contributing directly, while against Villa he scored and won that late penalty having been introduced at half-time with the score at 1-1.

On the flip side, his other half-time appearance against West Ham saw Chelsea let a 2-1 lead slip to lose 3-2 – and in any case, it would be fair to assume Roman Abramovich, Thomas Tuchel and co were not shopping for a £97m impact substitute in the summer.

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