Chelsea: Has Mourinho made an error by loaning out Lukaku?

For the transfer activity done by Chelsea this summer, totalling nearly £70 million in spend, it is the one that didn’t happen that was most significant. Samuel Eto’o, Willian, Andre Schurrle, Marco Van Ginkel and Christian Atsu were the arrivals as Jose Mourinho added unbridled quality to a squad already packed full of it, but it was a transfer window dominated at Stamford Bridge by the concerted effort to sign Wayne Rooney, ultimately proving unsuccessful.

It was clear that Mourinho wished to address his centre-forward deficit and so began an intense flirtation with Rooney, launching bids of £20 and £25 million, both of which were rebuffed by a diligent Manchester United.

After the Portuguese fielded a side devoid of a centre-forward in a meeting with United at Old Trafford, Mourinho gave Rooney 48 hours to push through a move to join an attack-line he held little faith in. That ultimatum failed so Mourinho turned to Eto’o, acquired in a free from the cash-strapped Anzhi Makhachkala.

Eto’o, boasting years of experience at the highest level and a stint under Mourinho at Inter Milan, will join Demba Ba and Fernando Torres in competition for the centre-forward spot in what is likely to be a consistent use of a 4-2-3-1 system.

Torres has just 15 goals in 84 league games, a record that struggles to justify the £50 million fee Chelsea paid Liverpool for him in January 2010, whilst Demba Ba has managed a meagre 6 goals in 22 games since joining in January and was offered to various clubs on a temporary deal on deadline day, only for any potential suitor to be put off by the loan fee.

However, Chelsea still found time to send a striker out on loan, Romelu Lukaku being trimmed from the squad as he chose to head to Everton instead of a return to West Bromwich Albion.

It was surprising that Lukaku decided for Merseyside ahead of the Hawthornes where he was so successful last year, just as much as it was that Chelsea let him go. The Belgian hit 17 goals in 35 league games last season, heading into the new season the most prolific of Chelsea’s strikers.

The deal for Lukaku represents a very astute acquisition for Roberto Martinez as he searched for a striker who could add a clinical touch to his new-look Everton side. The 6ft 3 inch, 94kg frame of the 20 year old will also give the Toffees a satisfactory replacement for Marouane Fellaini in terms of physique, offering an outlet and the perfect foil alongside Nikica Jelavic at Goodison Park.

It will raise eye-brows that Lukaku’s dynamism, strength and goal-scoring touch will be absent from Stamford Bridge when, in his first stint at Chelsea, Mourinho built his team around the devastating force of Didier Drogba.

Lukaku seems to be a ready-made replacement for the Ivorian in terms of talent and stature, but whilst obviously not at a similar level in terms of ability yet at the raw age of 20, Mourinho seems to be preaching a change of philosophy in south east London this time around.

With a side packed full of attacking midfielders and nimble, skilful, versatile footballers in the mould of Eden Hazard, Juan Mata, Kevin De Bruyne as well as the incoming Willian, Schurrle and Atsu, it is a team based more on fluency and loose adaptability rather than the rigid, well-drilled machine he led in his first coming.

Even Eto’o, a centre-forward by trade, was used as a winger by Mourinho at Internazionale and although likely to be given the job of leading Chelsea’s main striker, he is adept at dropping off and linking the play now that he has entered his early 30s.

Furthermore, while his past record and line of success is undoubted, he remains untested in the league that Lukaku thrived in last season. It remains a gamble for Mourinho, but one that is centred around fielding a system that encourages cohesion rather than using a fixed striker.

It remains to be seen where Lukaku’s future lies with his vast potential obvious at 20 years old and Chelsea still reluctant to use him regularly in a league he has proven he can score regularly in.

His progression has been helped by a willingness to loan him out and Mourinho has by far enough quality at his disposal to ensure the Belgian won’t be missed in the immediate future, but it will be up to him to show at Everton that he can make an undeniable case for inclusion at Stamford Bridge.

 

Written by Adam Gray

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250

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