The curious case of Romelu Lukaku to Arsenal?

The summer is fast approaching and this can only mean one thing: transfer speculation is about to begin. In fact, it already sucker-punched us like a kick to the privates during the international break. A host of clubs was linked with a host of players, Arsenal was among these clubs. We were linked with a left-back from Lorient, Granit Xhaka (who later denied being contacted by Arsenal representatives), Henrikh Mkhitaryan (don’t make me type that again) and Alvaro Morata.

As you can notice, Morata is the only striker in this group and I wouldn’t exactly call him world-class. Last season I wrote an article in defense of Olivier Giroud, where I examined his possible replacements. I didn’t even give a second glance to Morata, mostly because his stats in Serie A were atrocious. He scored just 8 goals in 29 league games, with a conversion rate of 16%.

And you know what? This year he’s gone backwards. At the moment of me writing this, he’s played exactly 29 games, scoring just 6 goals from 42 attempts! That’s 14% conversion rate. In other words, I wouldn’t advocate buying him even if a third-party (i.e. not Real or Juventus) could do that. Real can exercise their buy-back clause for around €30 million, but then Juve have a buy-back clause on this buy-back clause and I would be stunned if they don’t have a priority right. All of that means buying Morata would be a questionable investment of an undoubtedly hefty sum (It has to be said, though, that his 29 games amount to ~1300 minutes, which is the equivalent of 15 full games).

Of course there is no knowing how a player would perform in a different league, even in a different team of the same league. You can point at Henry who had a pretty dire spell at the same Juve but then blossomed at Arsenal. Then again Morata is young (only 23) and he looks a big-game player. Most Arsenal fans jumped on his bandwagon after Alvaro performed admirably in the semi-finals and the final of the Champions League last season.

However, few Arsenal fans were, or indeed are, pumped up about the possibility of Morata joining. That’s because they are busy hyping up another striker. His name is Romelu Lukaku.

Now, I’ve seen our fanbase drool over some really average players, like Martinez, for instance. Usually the obsession kicks in with regards to a foreign player. And by foreign I mean playing in a league other than the Premier League. I guess that’s because very few of our fans (me included) watch the players in question week in, week out, and as a consequence harbour under the illusion that a certain footballer is the answer. A bit like when our own players go down with an injury and by the time they come back our fanbase elevates them to saviour status.

However the fixation on Lukaku is most bizarre. We can (and most do) watch him every week. So how some can say with a cool head that Lukaku is worth any sum of money asked for him is beyond me.

I mean, what’s he good at? What makes him worth all this money (a fee of around £50 million is thrown about)? Let’s take a look at what most say when directly asked why they deem it prudent to pay such money.

“He’s a proven scorer”

Lukaku completed 4 full seasons in the Premier League and is on course to complete his 5th. In his 5 seasons, 3 he stayed with Everton (one of them on loan), 1 with West Bromwich (also loan) and 1 with his parent club, Chelsea. In these 5 years, Lukaku made 142 appearances, scoring 60 goals (league only). That’s a ratio of 0.43 goals-per-game, which is decent. It’s almost one goal in two games, a rate widely considered a very good one, regardless of the league you play in.

However, while this is not fatal, I would still like to point out Lukaku made only 10 of his Prem appearances for Chelsea, failing to score once. He wasn’t even considered by Mourinho as decent backup to Costa and was sold straight away after his loan spell with Everton. Remy was preferred to him (which in itself says a lot). Granted, Mourinho isn’t your pick at blooding youngsters, but still. We can say Lukaku hasn’t made it a big club and that provides further food for thought for his potential suitors.

Let’s return to the goalscoring part. A rate of 0.43 goals per game is accompanied by a 15% conversion rate in 13/14, an atrocious 10% in 14/15 and an 18% rate this season. If you want some perspective, Olivier Giroud scored 42 goals in his last three seasons (league only) in 76 league games. That’s a rate of 0.55 goals-per-game, with conversion rates at 14%, 20% and 14% respectively. Olivier Giroud cost us £12 million and would be worth around €27 million (according to Transfermarkt). The same Transfermarkt values Lukaku at €35 million, by the way.

“He’s young”

Guess that implies he has room for improvement and development. That paying 50 mil or so we invest in the future. That the guy will definitely reach his full potential and that full potential is scary.

A player comes to mind. A young Englishman who went for around 40 million last summer. Goes by the name of Raheem Sterling. Did he play up the hype, did he, as of yet, realise his potential? No. Will he? Maybe. Was it a good investment? Time will tell, but for now it was not. I know one thing: if we bought Raheem Sterling for the money he went for and he performed the way he dies now, I’d be fuming. The only thing which would prevent me from calling for Arsene’s head would be my infinite trust in his abilities to nurture young talent.

There are so many factors which are important for player development. The right manager is only one of them. The right environment, the right team, the right playing style (cause unless you are Mesut Ozil no one will reshape their team around you). I’m not prepared to take a gamble on a player coming good for such a sum, given our resources aren’t the bottomless pit and we can’t really allow for such an investment to be for nothing.

Unless you are Ozil…

“He’s homegrown”

That’s my favourite argument for splashing out 50 mil on the Belgian *heavy sarcasm klaxon*.

An argument as ridiculous as it gets. While being homegrown heavily affects the price regardless, in itself it isn’t something worth paying for. Not for us, at least. We don’t have a shortage of homegrown players. Might as well keep Walcott if we need a homegrown player. Much cheaper too.

The last word

That’s as many arguments as I have been able to squeeze out of “Lukaku to Arsenal” advocates. And these arguments simply aren’t good enough for me.

You see, Lukaku isn’t particularly good at anything. Nothing to make your jaw drop. Nothing worth paying a premium price for.

Is he fast? In flashes, but sometimes I wonder just how slow can he get when I see him run with the ball. Is he a good target man? I wouldn’t say that. Good target men are good at winning aerial duels and scoring headed goals, Lukaku is good at neither.

All of that isn’t to say he is a bad player. He’s just not, as of yet, a particularly good or consistent one. Not worth 50 million certainly. I don’t think it’s wise to take a gamble of this magnitude on a player who had just one good season.

On top of that, having a good season with Everton doesn’t mean he’ll have a good spell with us. You need to look no further than Bony and Benteke to realise how a transfer to a big club isn’t necessarily a good thing.

That’s it from me for now. Back in a couple of days with the preview of our West Ham clash.

Until then


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10 Responses to The curious case of Romelu Lukaku to Arsenal?

  1. TMO April 7, 2016 at 8:06 am #

    Comparing Lukaku and Giroud is shocking.

    I can see you have an agenda against anyone replacing Giroud…who i assume you have a soft spot for.

    Find me another 22 year old that has scored 60 league goals already.

    • Alex April 7, 2016 at 8:38 am #

      I’ve clearly stated in the article I only brought up Giroud to give some perspective. He cost us £12 million and, as of yet, can be considered only marginally worse than Lukaku. Certainly not £30-40 million worse. I have also mentioned him while many say we need a CONSIDERABLE upgrade on him. Lukaku doesn’t look like one and I’m not prepared to take a gamble on the basis of one good season. Especially on the back of the last two games he played (vs us and United): he was completely useless and invisible, having been pocketed by Gabriel (who had a mistake-ridden season) and Blind (who is not even a centre-back per se!)

      The fact he scored 60 goals would look much more impressive if he scored these goals in, say, 90 games. At 140 outings it’s still impressive (something I also stated), but not a head-turner

  2. Matt April 7, 2016 at 8:25 am #

    I agree that Romelu Lukaku shouldn’t be worth £50 million, nor Alvaro Morata being worth £30 million or whatever, but it is part of a greater problem, the lack of top drawer strikers in the world of football. Who would you say are the genuinely top drawer strikers nowadays? Zlatan, Luis Suarez, Robert Lewandowski, Sergio Aguero, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Karim Benzema, Diego Costa, Gonzalo Higuain and Edinson Cavani? Maybe a couple I’ve missed out? Paulo Dybala? Chicharito? As much as it pains me to say it, I suppose you’d probably have to put Harry Kane up there now as well. How many of those players are realistically obtainable for a team like Arsenal? Not that many in truth. I’d love Aubameyang because I think he is quality and would suit us down to the ground, but it doesn’t seem like he wants to move anytime soon. There is a greater emphasis on really good wide players and attacking midfielders because the greater strikers are in short supply. The few teams to have a really good striker are obviously going to be reluctant to sell up. It is really tough thinking who we could sign.

    You look at somebody like Romelu Lukaku. A few years ago I was pretty critical of his all-round game, because it wasn’t good enough. He was limited. During the last two seasons I’ve noticed considerable improvement in his passing, hold up play, etc. Over the last for seasons he has scored 17, 16, 20 and 25 goals – consistency. He shouldn’t be worth £50 million but his pedigree at the age of 22 is really good, this season he has been brilliant. I think we’re going to struggle to find much better in our market.

    As you rightly said, Alvaro Morata’s record isn’t really good enough to warrant the sort of money being touted around, but he does score goals in big games. Teams may be looking at that and thinking he is worth a gamble for if/ when he does add that consistency to his game.

    I know we don’t need anymore injury prone players but I think it could be worth monitoring the Daniel Sturridge situation.

    • Alex April 7, 2016 at 6:46 pm #

      I agree with you, there’s a genuine shortage of world-class strikers, the question is whether it’s worth coughing up the sum touted. In this particular case, I don’t think £50 million is sensible

  3. Mike April 7, 2016 at 8:45 am #

    Wow. Spot on about Lukaku, he’s rubbish. Look…

    Lukaku has already played 268 professional games and scored 119 goals in his short career. By the time Henry and Drogba turned 22, they had scored a combined 36 goals.

    Everton and/or West Brom are hardly known for creating chance after chance…. Imagine if he HAD actually played for a big club with better players.

    Lukaku will go this summer and it’ll be £50 million (easily)

    • Alex Field April 9, 2016 at 7:09 am #

      Go away twonk

  4. Galway Gooner April 7, 2016 at 8:47 am #

    At Lukaku’s age Giroud was hitting about 1 goal ever 3 games in a the French second division.
    He is certainly faster that Giroud and I think has the potential to be a far better player. We all know what Giroud is; he’s a second level striker, lacks real pace and is pretty one dimensional. Not saying that he isn’t good but when a team is setup to play against him our whole attack simply stops.

    I’d put the two of them on about level pegging now but I’d rather have the Everton man as he offers a lot of what Olly offers plus the one thing he doesn’t; pace.

    You never know how a player will turn out but Lukaku has been steadily improving and has all the physical attributes to make it.
    And while you can never be certain it’s a pretty safe bet to say that with coaching and due to the greater number of chances we create that Lukaku would score goals here.

  5. Victor Thompson April 7, 2016 at 11:49 am #

    HI Alex, once again very impressive use of statistics.

    I have to say that I was impressed with Lukaku when he was at West Brom. I still have a mental image of him marauding all over the place with his dreadlocks flying behind him. He had no fear and bulldozed his way through defences. I was disappointed at the time he went to Everton without us having made a bid.

    He continues to use his physique to impose himself on a game but I have noticed that his tactics have not evolved. As you say Gabriel had him in his pocket because he does not have a trick. He doesn`t fool good defenders and in short, I cannot see him fitting into our style of play particularly our latest morph into a fast moving and passing team just like Arsenal of old.

    In regard to Morata, I recall reading the hype about him last year and I could not see what the reason for it was. I have occasionally read the Italian reports and I still don`t get it. His record is only average and some times; it may sound ridiculous, but I think it is nothing more than the romance of an exotic sounding Italian name. We have always been inclined in GB to be mesmerised by Italian names. Think about Balotelli, Catuso, Ancelloti BoriniIi, Casoraghi etc. It may even explain the fixation with Italian managers.

    On the whole, I don`t think either player would suit us and they are probably not good enough.

  6. Alex Field April 7, 2016 at 4:11 pm #

    Not that impressed with Lukuku and Everton would want silly money!! Not that the silly old twonk wenger would pay it the senile stubborn old goat has gone stale

  7. Alex Field April 7, 2016 at 4:12 pm #

    Bloody arrogant old twunt!!!

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