Romelu Lukaku ready to step up as Chelsea's target man

A good loan spell with West Brom followed by a good pre-season, the Belgian looks set to make an impact at Chelsea this season...
 Shikharr Chandra
 COMMENT | Premier League
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A new season, a new albeit familiar manager and an inspired squad. After all the distress Chelsea had to endure last season, it seems the club is finally heading in the right direction. The man at the helm now is Jose Mourinho, who is no stranger to the Stamford Bridge faithful. Mourinho gets ready to start his second spell as Chelsea boss and there seems to be a belief that the "Happy One" will take them forward.

Chelsea's pre-season run ended on a positive note with the only talking point coming after the defeat against a far superior Real Madrid side, but that hardly looks to have changed the mood around the camp with the fans optimistic that they can win the Premier League.

One of the major problems with Chelsea last season was their lack of squad depth. With more than 70 games last season in the fixture list, the club lacked quality options on all fronts. The likes of Michael Essien, Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne were all loaned out and the ill-timed selling of Raul Meireles did not help the manager's options.

The present seems to be a different story though. With the addition of German forward Andre Schurrle, midfielder Marco Van Ginkel and goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, the club has re-called most of its loanees rather than spending huge amounts on new established players. The likes of Tomas Kalas, Kevin De Bruyne, Lukaku and Essien add quality as well as quantity to the squad.

But there are still a few positions in which the club still lacks  and one such is the center forward role.

Ever since the departure of Dider Drogba in 2012, the Blues have failed to find a striker capable of leading the line effectively. Chelsea's summer so far has seen them being linked with a host of strikers mainly Edinson Cavani and Wayne Rooney, the former though moved to French champions Paris Saint-Germain earlier in the ttransfer window. Having missed out on Radamel Falcao as well and with Manchester United not willing to let Wayne Rooney go, Chelsea's options seem limited.

Record signing Fernando Torres has still not found his touch since his move from Liverpool back in 2011 and this might very well be the Spaniard's last season to prove himself at Chelsea with the club looking to cut their wage bill in order to meet the Financial Fair Play (FFP) requirements. Senegalese forward Demba Ba who was brought in last season from Newcastle United to replace Daniel Sturridge has failed to perform on a consistent basis despite showing glimpses of his talent.

The former Newcastle man was mainly seen by the board as a short term solution and it seems like the club would not hesitate in offloading him if they get a decent offer. Andre Schurrle offers an option as well. The former Bayer Leverkusen star has played as a forward on occasions but it seems like Mourinho has different plans for him. 

After a proper first season in English football with West Bromwich Albion, Lukaku looks to have finally settled in after a disastrous first season with Chelsea. The Belgian who made a big money move from Anderlecht was hardly given an opportunity at the club with the likes of Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres being chosen ahead of him. Lukaku soon went on to describe his first season as troubled and one to forget.

Lukaku came with a glowing reputation having performed regularly in Belgium's Jupiler League. His £18 million move however raised several questions.

Having made only 12 appearances in his first season without scoring, Lukaku was critical of his managers and did not even join his teammates as they lifted the Champions League trophy. The subsequent season saw Lukaku join former Chelsea assistant coach Steve Clarke at West Brom on a season-long loan a deal that ultimately shaped his status in England.

Often starting as a substitute, he took his chances and came up with goals on regular occasions and ultimately cemented his spot in the first team. Nicknamed the "fridge from Stamford Bridge" his physical presence, speed and finishing was for everyone to see as he outscored Chelsea's Fernando Torres by nine goals in the Premier League. The prodigious youngster announced himself in a grand fashion and for many he was already the answer to Chelsea's Didier Drogba conundrum.

From being a raw prodigy, Lukaku now finds himself leading the line under Jose Mourinho's Chelsea. Mourinho becomes Lukaku's fourth boss in England in just two seasons but certainly the most experienced.

So, is Lukaku ready to lead the line at Chelsea?

Life is obviously going to be more difficult for him at the Bridge compared to his stint at West Brom. With the Baggies, the opposition sides usually preferred a more attacking approach, playing a higher line which often allowed Lukaku a lot of space to run into. At Chelsea though there is a different approach not only by the Blues but also a more defensive mentality adopted by the oppositions which could limit Lukaku's space and hence make his biggest asset which is his speed a little more difficult to utilize.

Lukaku ended the pre-season with four goals having played 121 minutes, the best record amongst the three strikers with Demba Ba coming the closest with three goals. Fernando Torres though failed to get off the mark despite playing more minutes than the other two.

There still seems to be a divided opinion amongst the fans as to whether Lukaku should lead the line or not with many ready to see their young prodigy on a regular basis at the club whereas many are still not fully convinced with his capabilities.

Game time should not be a problem for Lukaku unlike last season but if Chelsea fail in their quest to sign Wayne Rooney or any established striker for that matter, the idea of the 20 year-old leading the line does not look like a bad one.

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