When Ronald Koeman joined from Southampton this summer he was probably almost resigned to the fact that both John Stones and Romelu Lukaku would leave the club.
Whilst Stones’ move did go through, Chelsea appear to have been priced out of a move for Lukaku, who is now willing to stay at Everton according to Koeman. He had been widely linked with a £65million move to Chelsea.
Koeman wrote in his column in Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf: “Ten days before the transfer deadline he (Lukaku) came into the manager’s office and said he was no longer leaving and had decided to stay at Everton.
“His decision is the same value as a big money transfer. He is not only a good player but a fine person. He lives his football in the fashion that you would want a top footballer to.
“It is great to work with him and I think he had seen that we want to engineer improvement at every corner. To develop him into a really top player is the challenge before me.”
That is a boost to Everton, and Koeman can now plan for the future with the young Belgian striker spearheading the attack. With Lukaku’s future uncertain the club Koeman opted to put play Gerard Deulofeu as a striker, this didn’t really work and the Dutchman will now be pleased to have Lukaku back and focussed on Everton.
Lukaku is just 23 years of age, still giving him plenty of time to improve as a footballer. Although he has some obvious weaknesses, for example his lack of a first touch, Lukaku has the ability to take Everton to European football. If Koeman can harness the raw ability of Lukaku and put the right players arond him, Everton can really take a step up this season.
Traditionally Koeman likes to have a target up top, it was Graziano Pelle at Southampton. Lukaku has similar physical attributes, capable of winning aerial duels as a habit and using his strength to hold off defenders. Something Lukaku has that Pelle doesn’t is pace, and the ability to beat a man. I wanted to take a closer look at this.
Although statistically Pelle has the edge over Lukaku in terms of being successful in aerial duels, defences often found it easy to defend against Pelle (with a high line) due to the Italian’s lack of pace. This meant Koeman would have to sacrifice a midfielder to play a faster striker alongside Pelle, Shane Long for example. Lukaku’s speed and ability to beat a man gives Koeman a completely different animal and allows the Dutchman to play with just one striker, his favoured formation. Lukaku made 41 successful take ons last season compared to Pelle’s 7.
He knows how well Deulofeu and Lukaku can combine, the important thing for Koeman will be to ensure the duo deliver consistently. Under Koeman’s guidance Lukaku needs to develop a ruthless streak in front of goal and increase his goalscorers instinct.
Although £65million, the amount Everton reportedly wanted for Lukaku, is somewhat of an over valuation, Lukaku can become worth that amount if he perfect his game. He’s never going to have the best first touch but something he can improve is his off the ball movement. His finishing is brilliant and if he can get into positions where he can score more often then I would expect his goal tally to keep rising throughout his career. At the moment too often he is caught labouring around the pitch, not putting his body on the line to get into the box and on to the end of all crosses. I think with Deulofeu/Lennon on the right, Lukaku would benefit from a less direct winger on the left.
I think with Deulofeu/Lennon on the right, Lukaku would benefit from a less direct winger on the left. This is because Deulofeu relies on fast counter attacks to break down defences and get the ball into the box. Kevin Mirallas has a similar approach, I think Lukaku would benefit from a creative midfielder more capable of breaking down crowded defences – similar to what Dusan Tadic did for Koeman’s Southampton.
Now Everton have the boost of Lukaku wanting to stay at the club, they need to make the most of it. He could change his mind again next summer.