Should Lukaku Be Recalled In January?

Ok, hopefully the time is coming for us to start talking about football again. I was going to put this up last Wednesday after Juventu...

Ok, hopefully the time is coming for us to start talking about football again. I was going to put this up last Wednesday after Juventus, but after Di Matteo got sacked, I don’t think anybody would have really had any time for it (myself included!).

As we all know, one of Chelsea’s best prospects, Romelu Lukaku, is currently loaned out at West Brom. This has been a positive move in some respects, and a negative one in others.

It is very positive that he is at a premier league club, and that he plays regularly for them. However my only concern over this loan move, and I add that I had this concern when it was first announced that he would be going to West Brom, is that he is not regularly starting for them due to the competition within their squad. He is usually restricted to 10 - 20 mins at the end. 

The reason is fair enough, Shane Long and Peter Odemwingie are very good players who are both in very good form (as we unfortunately found out a week and a half ago…). Steve Clarke undoubtedly played a large role in him moving there, when there are a great deal of other clubs where he would be starting at every week, and it’s a shame we didn’t send him to one of these. 

It’s water under the (Stamford) bridge though. There is another pressing matter at hand. Should he be recalled from loan and return to Chelsea in January?

  1. Is it possible? Answer: Yes, it is. A clause was put into the agreement that allows this.
  2. Do we want this? Answer: it depends.

Question 2 is where opinion and speculation comes into the matter. One thing that most fans will agree on is that there is need for fresh striker blood in the squad. Another thing that I think most fans will agree on, Lukaku isn’t the answer for our striker troubles this season. I think most fans would prefer a new signing, a Neymar or Falcao for instance, or at least somebody who offers a reasonable guarantee of goals and assists (lets not get into issues of money and who to sign now I beg).

This does not however mean that Lukaku could not play a big role if he were to return. This would depend however on the striker(s) that we sign, and the striker(s) that we keep.

I firmly believe that we should have no more or less than 3 strikers in our squad. That leaves room for him right now. However we don’t know, for sure, if we will sign another striker or who it would be (although I think we are likely to bring in someone). If we sign someone, and sell neither Torres nor Sturridge, then we should leave him there. If we sell one then we can consider recalling him. More simply put, we should only consider recalling him if he brings the number of strikers in our squad to 3. This is where speculation over who is coming and going is relevant.

If this is the case then we must ask whether the impact he will have in recalling him is worth the potential stagnation of his career (i.e, will he play a lot less, and would this slow down his development?).

If Benitez uses him properly, I think he would have a similar amount of playing time at Chelsea as he would have had at West Brom, possibly even more, and so I don’t think it would hamper his development too much. He is behind two strikers there, so even if he was behind two strikers here, not a lot would have changed. I would worry a little about what it would mean if we wanted to loan him out again next season though, and I think it is likely that we would. Recalling him now will be a pain for West Brom, and other clubs will remember that we did that, and so will be more hesitant in taking him on loan.

It’s stats time! You’ve got to love a good stat or two. Lukaku has made 11 PL appearances, 8 from the bench, and scored 4 goals with an average of 2.4 shots per match. He makes 0.7 key passes per game, has 0.9 successful dribbles and is dispossessed 1.5 times.

Torres has started all 13 games, scored 4 goals, has an average of 1.9 shots per game, 1.2 successful dribbles and is dispossessed 2.9 times.

Sturridge has 7 appearances, 6 from the bench, with 1 goal. Averages 1.3 shots per game, 0.3 key passes, 0.9 successful dribbles and is dispossessed 0.3 times.

There is a lot to take into account when looking at stats like these, such as injuries and actual playing time, but you can still take away some important facts. Considering Lukaku has made over half of his appearances from the bench his 4 goals and average of 2.4 shots per game is impressive. Far more so than Torres or Sturridge (although Sturridge has had a limited time playing time too). 

You can look into this in a lot of detail, but for now, all I want to point out is that Lukaku is better on paper. From what I’ve seen of him and from these statistics, I think he would be starting were he here.

His physicality is something that Chelsea really misses right now too. It’s all good to have a lightweight side that plays attractive football but I’ve always been a fan of the bigger stronger players that get in defenders’ faces and give them hell all day. Having a Ibrahimovic or a Drogba up front brings a lot to the team as we know all too well.

Sadly I don’t think he is particularly keen on returning to us. This is a recent quote from him:

"After January, I am sure I will be at West Brom. I am very happy to know that in my head.

I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen of him at West Brom. His energy, strength and attitude is outstanding, and as such, he creates a lot for himself. The only thing I would say is that he needs to work on his finishing a little… Overall though, should we need a third striker, and all things remaining the same, I think it would be wise to recall him in January.

(follow me on twitter:@cody_bound)

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