On his infamous debut back in August 2014, Diego Costa introduced himself as the forward Chelsea had dreamed of within 17 minutes at Turf Moor.
For Romelu Lukaku at The Emirates, he got his first slightly quicker in 15 minutes. But there was so much about this performance that reminded Chelsea supporters what they had been missing in attack since Costa departed in 2017. His first touch – forever a main point of criticism during his time at Manchester United – was superb here. He kept our attacks flowing and had no issue playing with his back to goal, something he tirelessly worked to improve in his time under Antonio Conte in the San Siro.
He pretty simply had Pablo Mari for breakfast, almost grinning at his handy work as he threw the Arsenal defender away like an unwanted toy for the easy tap-in to open the scoring.
The dominance of this performance brought back visions of Didier Drogba terrorising Philippe Senderos in years past. Or the way Diego Costa toiled with Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker evoking fury in Arsenal fans.
Apart from the historical significance against the North London club, what this afternoon showed was the potential Lukaku brings to Thomas Tuchel’s attack.
There was a maturity to the rest of the team and confidence in their front man’s ability to win his duels, it was up to them to provide the service and he’d do the rest.
Reece James crosses have become a big point of frustration for the Chelsea faithful in recent seasons. Not for their quality, but for the fact no one has been capitalising on them. Although James assist for Lukaku was a simple pass across the box, it demonstrated the strong connection to the two could have at Stamford Bridge.
Throughout the game Lukaku was available to be found. It gave a swift edge to Chelsea’s build up that prevented a slower side-to-side game that we have been guilty of. A sharp pass into Lukaku’s feet instantly brought our moves to life. It also evoked an audible nervous groan from the home crowd, as they sensed danger with Lukaku lurking.
Tuchel can now look to try a variety of attacking trios with the 28-year-old. At The Emirates it looked like a spilt striker system with Mason Mount playing deeper to Lukaku and Kai Havertz. Reece James provided extra width on the right.
Is has already been pondered by fans whether Timo Werner could play the Lautaro Martínez role which worked so wonderfully alongside Lukaku at Inter. Hakim Ziyech was brilliant over pre-season and his wand of a left foot could provide the new No.9 with presentable opportunities.
Lukaku passed his first test with flying colours. And should we be surprised? This is a forward who scored 113 goals in 252 appearances in his first Premier League spell. Since moving to Serie A he has found the net 64 times in 95 appearances.
He has already outdone Costa’s intro and in one-go become Arsenal’s new nemesis. If Lukaku continues in the same vein as Chelsea’s previous two best forwards, the sky’s the limit for Tuchel’s side.