There’s no respite for Arsenal at the moment.
Having had to deal with the incredible trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar at the Nou Camp, their back-line is in for another significant test this weekend. When Arsenal travel to Goodison Park, they will face off against one of the most dangerous strikers in the country in Romelu Lukaku. Arsene Wenger should make the most of this opportunity to watch him at close hand. Come the summer, Lukaku ought to be right at the top of Arsenal’s list of transfer targets.
Lukaku has been in outstanding form this season. His two strikes against former club Chelsea last weekend, one of which was a slaloming wonder goal, took his tally for the season to 25. In the Premier League, he has plundered 18 goals—considerably higher than Arsenal’s top scorer, Olivier Giroud, who has 12.
In fact, since the 2012/13 season, only Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero has scored more goals than the burly Belgian. For a player who is still only 22, it’s a remarkable record. He has already become only the fifth player in Premier League history to have scored 50 goals before the age of 23. The other four were Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo. It’s not bad company to keep.
Lukaku is a different kind of striker to those Arsenal currently have available. Like Danny Welbeck, he combines the speed and movement of Theo Walcott with the physique and hold-up play of Olivier Giroud. However, Lukaku does not share Welbeck’s tendency to panic in front of goal.
His touch is occasionally a little heavy, but his technique appears to be improving with time.
What’s more, Wenger has plenty of experience at turning rough diamonds into cultured forwards. The improvement of a player like Emmanuel Adebayor under his tutelage was dramatic. Lukaku’s incredible physical attributes also makes the more coarse elements of his game tolerable—his sheer presence seems to generate chance after chance. Even when his shooting goes awry, it’s rarely long before he’s out-muscled a defender to forge another opportunity.
Lukaku wouldn’t come cheap. Everton paid a club record fee to sign him from Chelsea, splashing £28 million in the summer of 2014. The fact that they are now financially backed by former Arsenal shareholder Farhad Moshiri means they are in no particular rush to sell. Although Moshiri once claimed to be an Arsenal supporter, the Gunners can’t expect any favours, and would surely have to pay a record fee of their own to capture the powerful striker.
However, Arsenal fans would take a particular delight in capitalising on the development of a player once discarded by rivals Chelsea. They already have Petr Cech performing heroics at one end of the pitch. Bring in Lukaku at the other, and the delight of the Gunners supporters would be considerable.
It remains to be seen whether Wenger is in charge come the summer, but whoever heads up Arsenal’s transfer strategy should be looking closely at Lukaku.
He is a proven Premier League goalscorer who is still young enough to get even better.
Even at £50 million or more, the Belgian could prove to be a bargain.
Read more from James McNicholas, AKA @Gunnerblog