Bringing in Romelu Lukaku on-loan from Chelsea was one of a trio of impressive deadline day signings made by Everton. “He’s still a young man but he’s got everything…,” a beaming Roberto Martinez told EvertonTV. “As a human being, he is an incredible character and a very intelligent man. I can’t wait for him to join us and he’s going to give us a real boost into the squad.”
But how exactly will the big Belgian improve Martinez’s side?
For one thing, Lukaku should bring goals to the Toffees’ frontline. Everton have lacked a potent striker for some time. At first, Nikica Jelavic seemed to be the deadly striker the club had been missing, netting nine goals in ten starts after coming over from Rangers in January 2012. But after a lengthy barren spell last season, he is still very short of confidence and, as a result, short of goals.
The best league goal tally an Everton striker managed in recent years is 13. Louis Saha managed that back in the 2009/2010 season, a campaign in which Everton scored 60 goals in total. Interestingly enough, they haven’t scored that many since.
Lukaku, with his tally of 17 goals last season, has the quality to better Saha’s tally. He scored an average of once every two games for West Brom, which is an excellent strike-rate. Looking at the above visualisation, the fact that he is comfortable finishing with either foot as well as his head is quite encouraging for Martinez.
In addition, Lukaku is a player capable of individual brilliance, unlike Jelavic. He is a quick, powerful player, able to dribble past opponents to open a path to goal. His movement is also quite good. He is always showing himself for the ball, waiting to collect it to have a go at goal. That said, it’ll be interesting to see how he links up with Ross Barkley.
Barkley has shown himself to be quite capable of picking a pass this season. Enjoying a role just behind the main striker, that space is precisely where he has created the bulk of his chances (four out of the five so far this season), this should have Lukaku licking his lips at the prospect of teaming up with him.
Barkley is always showing himself for the ball, drifting wide as well as dropping deep for it. And he can often be seen making supporting runs into the box when not in possession, meaning that Lukaku won’t be alone in the penalty area.
But to make that partnership even better, Lukaku must work on winning more headed duels. Just 42% won for a player of his height (1.9 metres) and strength is simply not good enough. True, Martinez’s philosophy means that the ball will spend more time on the ground than in the air, but the likes of Leighton Baines will swing crosses in, or the centre-back’s will step forward and play a few long balls up the field.
When that happens, Lukaku must be able to win those headers and either knock the ball down or flick it on for the likes of Barkley, Steven Pienaar, and Kevin Mirallas, who will be making forward runs in support. Improvement in this area should see him create more than the one chance per game, which he averaged last season.
From a neutral perspective, it’s a shame that this is a temporary arrangement. Still, it’ll be very interesting to see how Everton get on now that a vital piece of the jigsaw has finally been put into place. In a season that has seen Everton yet to record a win, the young Belgian should go on to prove the difference.