Built like a boxer and compared to Didier Drogba, Arsenal should look to no-one but Romelu Lukaku to be the powerful forward who can add a whole new dimension to the team...
Most people, aged 16, are up to the same things. Illicit smoking and drinking, trying to get off with the opposite sex, making terrible fashion choices and, generally, pretending that they know it all. Romelu Lukakau was no ordinary 16-year-old. At a time when most of us were grappling with bras, booze and premature ejaculation, the new ‘Didier Drogba’ was on his way to firing Anderlecht to the Belgian league title as top scorer with 15 Goals.
Only recently 18, and with a goal return of just under one-in-two for his club, Lukaku has been tracked, scouted and eulogised about by some of the biggest clubs and greatest coaches in Europe. “It’s true we wanted Lukaku at Madrid,” said Mourinho last October, “but he has a very clever Dad who wants him to stay at Anderlecht for two or three years.”
The Dad is question is Roger Lukaku, a former journeyman player of Congolese descent who, in the few interviews he has given on the subject of his sons’ transfer, has intimated a desire to see the prodigy come to the Premier League as it would suit his bristling style. I for one can vouch for his effectiveness.
Since the great eye twitch of 2001 I haven’t purchased a copy of any football management game to play on my laptop. But this self-enforced ban didn’t stop me from downloading Football Manager 2011 on my iPhone. Playing as my beloved Liverpool, I sold the wantaway Torres for £60 million to Barcelona (he snapped his cruciate straight away) and set about rebuilding the squad with players such as Contreao, Suarez, Derfour, Fernadinho and Ezequiel Garay. I also took a punt on Lukaku based on a few YouTube clips I had seen.
Predominantly right-footed, he plays on the shoulder of the centre-backs and uses his phenomenal upper-body strength and pace to force gaps in between them. He’s willing to run the channels to provide an outlet and the way he holds off men almost twice his age with consummate ease is frightening.
Although it would be churlish to extrapolate his form on a simulated 2D game to real-life, the fact that he scored 263 goals in 10 seasons - including the winner in consecutive Champions League finals and a last day hat-trick at Old Trafford that won the Premier League title - should not be sniffed at.
More than any player I signed, he piqued my interest to a point that I have often streamed RSC Anderlecht games to see if he has any chance of becoming the player that the FM scouts believe him to be. The short answer is yes.
The comparisons with Drogba are inevitable. Predominantly right-footed, he plays on the shoulder of the centre-backs and uses his phenomenal upper-body strength and pace to force gaps in between them. He’s willing to run the channels to provide an outlet and the way he holds off men almost twice his age with consummate ease is frightening.
He is the perfect striker for Arsenal. For all the pretty football Arsenal play, the whole world knows that they need an iron spine to prop up loose limbs on the flanks and Lukaku is the answer. He relishes the physical side of the game and you can guarantee that he would have no problems on a wet Wednesday at Stoke. Robin Van Persie is a fine player, on his day one of the best in the league, but Chamakh looks to be no more than an average all-round striker and Bendtner is, of course, only one hundredth of the player he thinks he is.
Arsenal supporters, frustrated by rumours of their two world-class midfielders departing will, of course, expect the club to reinvest heavily to bring in established talent. Yet despite his age Lukaku was seemingly born for the Premier League and has been carrying Anderlecht since he was 16. The ideal scenario would be to pay £20m for him, bring in one out-and-out winger to replace Nasri if he goes and change the shape of the team slightly. Arsenal are beautiful to watch, but when teams park the bus the play often gets funnelled inside due to the lack of a true wideman who wants to skin his marker and whip balls in. As for replacing Fabregas, you can't, but Wilshere and a rejuvenated Ramsey could be a very effective partnership and Wilshere would surely relish hitting passes into space for Lukaku to run onto.
Of course, there have been plenty of players who have shown immense physicality and talent at a tender age. Wayne Rooney has gone from strength to strength. Emile Heskey hasn’t.
Believe me, Arsenal could do a lot worse than take a punt on Lukaku.
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