Lukaku prepares to debut against Arsenal: The heir to Drogba’s Gunners tormenting history?

Following the return of Romelu Lukaku to Chelsea last week, Thomas Tuchel confirmed the Belgian striker would prepare in order to debut (once again) for the Blues in the second Premier League match of the season against Arsenal. 

What does that have anything to do with Didier Drogba? Well, Lukaku is believed by many to be the true heir to the 2012 Champions League hero’s legacy at Chelsea. When referring to Drogba’s reputation, his remarkable record against the Gunners is impeccable. The former striker scored 13 goals in 13 matches against Arsenal – including 8 of them in the Premier League – putting merciless masterclasses year in and year out. 

For that reason, with Lukaku’s introduction to the team imminent on Sunday, it is certain that every Chelsea fan hopes their new number 9 takes the Ivorian King as a reference and continues to prove people wrong by doing what he does best: hitting the back of the net. 

 Romelu Lukaku and Didier Drogba at Stamford Bridge in 2012 during  a Premier League match - Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC
Romelu Lukaku and Didier Drogba at Stamford Bridge in 2012 during  a Premier League match – Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC

Didier Drogba’s decisiveness and history with Arsenal

Back when Chelsea did not struggle with the team’s front three and its lack of on-goal shots, Didier Drogba always made sure to leave his mark against the Gunners. 

Some of his most notable performances during the North West London derby for the Premier League include the away match at Emirates Stadium in the 2009/10 season when he opened the scoresheet with a top-of-the-net beauty in the 41st minute, “one of my most beautiful goals”, according to the striker. In addition to that, 45 minutes later, he scored once again, now with a jaw-dropping, highly technical, precisive free-kick. As per the man himself: “Scoring against Arsenal is a special feeling.”.  

 Arsenal and Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium on November 29, 2009 - Photo by Mike Hewitt
Arsenal and Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium on November 29, 2009 – Photo by Mike Hewitt

Fast forward to 2010/11 Premier League season – another memorable moment involves Drogba’s goal at the 39th minute at Stamford Bridge, this time with a satisfying goal post hit – an improvisation which revealed his singular precision and accuracy. Undoubtedly, certified Arsenal nemesis. 

Lukaku and Drogba: from idol to mentor

Once upon a time, an 18-year-old Romelu Lukaku got to Chelsea after spending almost four years in the Belgian club Anderlecht. Even though he did not have many first-team opportunities, he certainly was able to make connections that would completely change his life in the future.

Indeed, from the first time the Belgian striker met Drogba during a physiotherapy session to these days, their friendship is truly admirable. Lukaku has commented time and time again on the influence the former Blues’ striker helped him turn into the “man on a mission” he is now, as well as the uncountable advices The King of the Bridge has passed on to him. 

Lukaku stated in his first Chelsea interview since rejoining the club:

“The basics of my career, everything that I needed to learn, I learned here 10 years ago. In the dressing room with a lot of personalities and players who won it all, and I was there to witness it first hand in the training sessions, in the physios, and stuff like that. So those basics I took for the rest of my career.”

Lukaku speaking to Chelsea TV on his arrival back at the club

Lukaku has idolized Drogba since he was a kid, and has mentioned how the Ivorian played a part in molding his career and character on multiple occasions. In his first interview for Chelsea since coming back to the club, he commented on how Drogba would guide him on what he should improve, pointing out the rights and wrongs. Nowadays, Drogba acknowledges and congratulates the Blues’ new number 9 on the progress made in the last few years, but continues to emphasize how the road to success and silverware lies on a “there is always room for improvement” mindset. 

What should we expect from Lukaku?  

Evidently, Lukaku arrives at Chelsea for the second time in a completely different scenario. When he first came in 2011, the team was already set out, as it was mainly formed by developed, experienced players around their 30s – who were in their absolute peak – and had already won multiple competitions in the years before. Fortunately, Lukaku did not overreact and get frustrated with the situation: he accepted and embraced the position of learning from the best, and simply making the most out of any time he got to go on the pitch.

Now, as an established striker, arguably one of the world’s most distinguished forwards, performing at a high level both in the Belgium national team, as well as for Inter for the past two years, enormous expectations were created by supporters, the board, and rivals. 

Former Chelsea man, Joe Cole himself, has discussed the matter, claiming that “Lukaku is the whole package”, arguing that Lukaku is in the same category as renowned strikers such as Bayern’s Robert Lewandovski and Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo. In addition to these acclamations, the former number 10 confidently affirmed:

“We’re getting a Lukaku who’s going to want to show people at Chelsea that he was the heir to Didier Drogba and that the club have had to go around the houses to get him back.”. 

However, even though comparisons might boost and inspire players to reach their maximum potential, it is a nice reminder to keep in mind that Lukaku and Drogba, despite the fact that they share multiple similarities, are different players, with distinct characteristics, who will leave independent legacies behind. Thus, Chelsea fans must not undervalue whatever there is to come from Lukaku, whether he manages to single-handedly win a Champions League final or not. The one certainty there is to know, for now, is that Lukaku will give the club everything he has got, and will fight to build his own legacy, with his own shirt and his own name.

From this Sunday onwards, a new chapter in the history of Chelsea Football Club begins. 

Written by Maria Dulce (@usernamedulce)

Edited by Tom Coley (@tomcoley49)

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