Just 15 minutes away from his second debut for Chelsea, Lukaku had the space to run and score the goal he had waited almost a decade to score.
It was an opener – in a 2-0 Premier League win over Arsenal on Sunday – that exemplified the heist play, timing of the ball and technique that Lukaku honed during his time away from Chelsea.
How to assess his return in the Chelsea shirt?
“Dominant,” replied the 28-year-old forward.
Never before in their history have Arsenal opened a league campaign with two losses without scoring.
Even worse for Arsenal, the latest defeat came with the lifting of pandemic capacity restrictions at Emirates Stadium for the first time in nearly 18 months.
There was a lot for the home fans they laughed at – and hoot they did – and so much to admire from visitors to West London who won so unexpectedly the Champions League last season.
Even more terrifying for Chelsea opponents is having Lukaku round off a previously devoid of focal point attack with a scoring touch.
This was seen quickly in North London.
Lukaku held back center-back Pablo Mari before handing the ball over to Mateo Kovacic. As the ball was thrown at James on the right flank, Lukaku made his way into the penalty area – easily brushing aside Mari – to find the pocket of space to receive the pass in the center and hit the former keeper. Bernd Leno.
“I wanted to add something different to the team and I hope I did,” said Lukaku. “The team has adapted very well. They helped me a lot. They made my life very comfortable. So I was not stressed when I entered the game. I was very focused.
With James shooting a goal for himself in the 35th minute after being coached by Mason Mount, Chelsea and Lukaku claimed a second straight victory.
Only Leno’s fingertip stop deprived Lukaku of a second of a powerful late header.
“I try to improve myself every time,” said Lukaku. “Now we have to keep working, building and getting stronger because the Premier League is a very competitive league. But we are up to the challenge and we hope we can improve.
He provides the threat – which Timo Werner sometimes lacked last season – that could help Chelsea win a first Premier League title since 2017.
“He gives something to our game that we didn’t have so much, like protecting the balls and playing very directly in front, until the last line,” said Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel. “You can’t start better than with a goal. He almost scored a second. He helped a few chances, half chances so a good start.
Owner Roman Abramovich only needed to commit $ 135million for a striker who was dismissed from his post in 2014 after playing just 15 times in his three seasons at Chelsea, including two on loan, without ever scoring. for the West London club.
At 28, Lukaku is more of a complete player than he was last seen in the Premier League at Manchester United two years ago, upping his game to lead Inter Milan to the Serie A title in the season last.
The Belgian is now the most expensive combined transfer player in the game’s history at almost $ 400million, based on fees paid by Everton, Manchester United, Inter Milan and now twice by Chelsea.
“I’m very happy with how he’s already integrated,” Tuchel said. “He’s a very smart guy, he likes being in the squad and he’s a very democratic leader because he talks to everyone and is very nice, humble. “
Arsenal, however, can hardly complain about having to face such an expensive player. Mikel Arteta just got a $ 175 million investment in summer signings – more than any other team in Europe – but nine players are missing due to injuries and coronavirus infections. And the next in the Premier League on Saturday will be Manchester City with the champions.
“I want a team that wants to fight and meet the challenge ahead,” said Arteta. “I hope things will get better. “