Chelsea’s Lukaku: The powerful engine that could

Romelu Lukaku of Chelsea and Dan Burn of Brighton battle at Stamford Bridge (Photo by Robin Jones/Getty Images)
Romelu Lukaku of Chelsea and Dan Burn of Brighton battle at Stamford Bridge (Photo by Robin Jones/Getty Images) /
Romelu Lukaku of Chelsea and Dan Burn of Brighton battle for the ball at Stamford Bridge. (Photo by Robin Jones/Getty Images) /

Lukaku thrives despite physical restraints

Speaking as a former member of the target striker club, I declare with the utmost conviction that target strikers have it rough. Brighton wants a VAR review on Romelu Lukaku’s goal because his elbow was out? Sure his elbow made a brief inconsequential appearance, but did they see the bear hug he escaped from before outjumping three defenders?

Lukaku’s first-half header put Chelsea ahead, and Brighton’s back line was criticized by the commentators for leaving Lukaku open. Really though, who wants to step in front of a swiftly moving freight train?

As much as I enjoy watching Lukaku, waiting for him to touch the ball is a bit like going to see your child have their 10 minutes of fame as tree #3 in the school play. However, in this scenario, they’re the best tree that ever was and they steal the show.

The reality is Lukaku’s time on the ball against Brighton was scarce. The ball was launched upfield and he wrestled off a center back to lay off the ball, or flick the ball on, or spin a defender. More often than not he spent less than a second on the ball each time. But he’s a menace to the back line for that single second, every single time.

Lukaku is every defender’s worst nightmare just by being on the field. He doesn’t even have to touch the ball to be a threat. Knowing someone of his attacking hunger, physical strength, and soccer smarts is hovering in the vicinity is threat enough.

To cope with his imposing presence, defenders are forced to play a game of tug-of-war with his shirt or lock him in with a grip more suited for a wrestling match. Besides his physical prowess, he’s a well-rounded striker who’s clever with the ball and whose intelligent runs off the ball make him hard to track.

He wasn’t perfect by any means, but I can admire someone who spends 90 minutes fighting off the clinging grips of desperate defenders and doesn’t go to ground whining despite the opponent all but jumping on aboard for a piggyback ride.

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Granted, Chelsea didn’t win the game and Lukaku walked away speechless, hands on his head. But tie game or not, Lukaku deserved his goal, he deserved the halftime praise, and though he left the field dejected, he deserves to be recognized for his indispensable presence on the field.