I was at the Southampton vs Everton match last Saturday and was sat several rows behind the Saints supporter who got pummelled in the head by a wayward shot from Romelu Lukaku in the pre-match warm-up. The Belgian exuded nothing but pure and utter class when he instantaneously jumped over the advertising boards and up into the stand. He gave the female supporter his jumper and apologised profusely as the entire Southampton end applauded the excellent gesture from the man who was to come back and haunt them later that afternoon. As many Saints fans wished, I had hoped that that misfired shot from Lukaku was a sign of what was to come. It wasn’t. The striker was the star performer in an impressive display by Everton in their emphatic win at St. Mary’s.
It’s a coincidence that at the match where Everton fans paid for a plane to fly over St. Mary’s with a banner attached protesting against the club’s ownership and lack of financial backing in the transfer window that the man that The Toffees forked out £28m for was, arguably, the best player on the pitch. It’s understandable that Everton fans are frustrated at the club after the club’s underachievement last season and the mere £4m that has been spent to date this window.
In the 2013/14 season, Everton were the surprise package of the season. Many were talking about The Toffees deservedly securing a Champions League place with the likes of Gerard Deulofeu, Gareth Barry and Romelu Lukaku impressing on their respective loan deals. Their attractive brand of football helped them seize a Europa League spot but despite splashing out £28m for Lukaku, the following season was not to have a patch on the previous.
In the space of one season, Roberto Martinez’s men dropped from fifth to 11th despite performing well in the Europa League. Their football was criticised for being too patient and not penetrative enough and the Everton boss was under pressure at Goodison Park. But now, with the Spaniard’s sole focus on domestic competitions, he’ll be hoping Everton return to the heights they reaches in his first season in charge. If they are to do so, Romelu Lukaku will be a pivotal factor in their return to the top half.
Everton’s club record signing has just begun his third season at the club, his fourth as a regular starter in the top flight and has scored 35 times in the Premier League, a startling and remarkable achievement for a player that only turned 22 at the end of last season. The season that lies ahead for both Everton and Lukaku is a big one. Lukaku has the potential to play, no disrespect to Everton, on the highest level; in the Champions League for a top club. His performances this season will not only go a long way in driving Everton back up the table but could also help him get a dream move in the future. If the Belgian’s display on the south coast is a sign of what is to come from him this season then he could find himself next to the likes of Sergio Aguero and Diego Costa as the league’s top goal scorers come May.
Lukaku caused the Southampton defence all sorts of problems last week and his bullish performance showcased all of his strengths. Lukaku’s obvious strength is his strength. The sheer size and hulking physique of the forward allowed him to bully Jose Fonte and Maya Yoshida. But it wasn’t just the centre backs he caused problems, his pace in a one-on-one tussle and foot race with the nippy Cedric Soares in the opening few minutes was highlighted the pace and power of the Belgian.
His goals exemplified his ability to finish regardless of if the ball is in the air or at his feet. A powerful header from a swift counter attack and well placed low finish after showing grit and determination to win the ball back on the halfway line typifies Lukaku’s ability and versatility.
Martinez found a formula to get the best out of his attacking players last weekend. The usually unimpressive Arouna Kone impressed out wide, the talented Ross Barkley played terrifically behind Everton’s powerful number 10 who was unstoppable. That formula will be crucial if Everton are to return to the top half of the table.
Yes, we’re only two weekends into the new Premier League season, but early form is pivotal in setting the tone for the rest of the season, both for the player and for their team. Lukaku has frightening potential and as I said, I believe Lukaku is destined to play for a top club. If he can build upon this early form this season and continue to develop into the player that he is capable of becoming, then surely that move has to come within the next couple of years. Not bad for a player that Jose Mourinho said lacked motivation.
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