At the time of writing, Romelu Lukaku has two goals in 14 matches. Alvaro Morata has three in 14.
The rivalry between the pair is not due to a personal dislike, but their respective summer transfer sagas. For so long they were destined to be at Manchester United and Chelsea, just not this way around.
Lukaku and Morata started superbly at their new homes. Goals flew in, and it looked like Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte had got it spot on. Lukaku was killing teams off, Morata was leading the line in a different, yet effective, way to Diego Costa.
The autumn joy has waned into winter frustration. Recent form has been poor for both. Morata is still linking up well with Eden Hazard, though chances are too often missed. Lukaku is still a focal point, even if it’s Anthony Martial who provides the primary goal threat for United.
Where they looked set to battle Harry Kane deep into 2018 for the golden boot, neither are proving as ruthless as Spurs’ line-leader.
The result is frustration for fans, and gradual questioning. The move from role player to main man is tough, as is the move from top-half side to league-contender, but the struggles of Morata and Lukaku are beginning to hurt their sides.
Morata missed a clear chance against West Ham on Saturday. The chance should have earned Chelsea a point at least. Lukaku missed opportunities against Watford and against Manchester City.
It could be fatigue or a dip. Either is understandable. Mourinho and Conte are now left with respective dilemmas. The time has come to make a big call on their marquee summer signings.
Michy Batshuayi has earned an opportunity to replace Morata in the league. Making that call is a statement from Conte that he might not yet want to give, however. A tactical ‘rest’ for Morata at Huddersfield might be as close as the Italian comes to such a move.
Mourinho’s options are a lot deeper. Martial, Marcus Rashford or Zlatan Ibrahimovic could lead the line.
Lukaku’s form has stretched over a long period now, and the depth that United have should mean he is given a breather. It should refresh him, while giving Mourinho the chance to test one of his other options.
Two of the most-discussed names of the summer were always going to hit troublesome waters this season. The timing of their dips is a worry for their respective clubs, however, as we approach the hectic period for managers to navigate.
This fabricated rivalry has plenty of time to run. The change of scenery and demands on them means their managers are left with little choice but to make a change, however.
Written by Sam Cox
Follow Sam on Twitter @SamRCox_
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