After such an impressive start to the 2021/22 campaign, Chelsea have had a bit of a wobble of late.
That’s not to say they’re overrated or rubbish or frauds. Every team goes through bad patches (as all managers stress in press conferences), and the Blues will eventually outgrow their funk.
But by the time they get the wheels on their title charge truly rolling again, it may be too late. Manchester City look unstoppable at the moment, and while Chelsea are now level on points with Liverpool, they don’t possess as much star quality.
However, the Reds will lose two key players in Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane to AFCON duty next month, while the Blues will only have to deal with the loss of Edouard Mendy.
With the Premier League’s star player away and Liverpool severely weakened at the top end of the pitch, there’s a window for Chelsea to re-announce themselves in the title race and a star attacker to make the headlines.
Romelu Lukaku will want to be the protagonist in both of those situations.
The Belgian turned the game in Chelsea’s favour during their 3-1 win at Aston Villa on Boxing Day, bullying most of the back four as he grabbed a goal and won a penalty to earn a vital three points.
It was arguably Lukaku’s best performance since his return to Stamford Bridge in the summer, and after the Blues coped pretty well in his absence, he now needs to prove he was worth the £98m his boyhood club paid to re-sign him.
Chelsea’s astonishing record of different goal scorers from all over the pitch looked rather unsustainable, and their lack of a killer touch has cost them in the last month or so. But that run was fuelled by some recent folklore.
The Blues have been plagued by a so-called striker curse ever since Roman Abramovich changed their destiny overnight, with Didier Drogba and Diego Costa the only centre forwards worthy of being deemed successes in the two decades that have followed.
Notably, Chelsea have not won a league title without either of those two leading the line (the closest they came was when Drogba was in rotation with Eidur Gudjohnsen and Mateja Kezman in Jose Mourinho’s debut campaign in west London). Lukaku has a chance to write his name into club history by adding his name to that list.
After firing Inter to Serie A glory last season, he has the experience the role requires, but he still has a perception to overcome on English shores. While impressive for Everton and West Brom, he was underwhelming at Manchester United and hasn’t yet lived up to the hype at Chelsea.
A quick glance at Lukaku’s social media channels will show you that he’s in touch with footballing narratives, as well as being someone who’s confident in his own skin and loves Chelsea. Now is the time to combine all of those factors with goals to lead their title charge.