If you could have either Benteke or Lukaku up top for Arsenal, who would it be? Personally, I’d go for Benteke.
— James Dodd (@JamesDoddTS) November 29, 2013
This is a fantasy sports question because Chelsea will never sell Lukaku to Arsenal. But if I could, I would take Lukaku over Benteke in an instant.
First, Chelsea won’t sell Lukaku to Arsenal because, as we would all simply say, they don’t need the money. But there’s a second, more sinister reason why a club like Chelsea will never sell a player to a rival: because it’s in their best interest to destabilize the League by having a Chelsea player on loan rampaging through the division scoring goals.
Think of the Lukaku loan as almost like a Chelsea B team (he even plays in blue) in the Premier League. His job is to get experience, get better, and hopefully rob Chelsea’s competitors of points. His two goals against Liverpool did exactly that: he took points off a top-four team.
It’s not his fault but the loan system in the Premier League is broken and has been since the two big-money teams started stockpiling their rosters with the world’s talent and then using the loan system as a way to alleviate the pressure of having so many players. Craig Bellamy’s loan from Man City to Cardiff caused a big stir in Championship (2nd division of English football) and Burnley chief Paul Fletcher called for a review of the rules when it was revealed that City were stumping up £75k per week of Bellamy’s £95k salary while he was at Cardiff.
But where City loaned Bellamy to a lower division, the Lukaku loan from Chelsea to Everton has the potential to be significantly more disruptive. Already this season Lukaku has had a major impact on Everton’s fortunes. Lukaku’s goals have won Everton 1 point against Liverpool, 3 points against Villa, 3 points against Newcastle, and 3 points against West Ham. He also took a goal off Man City in Everton’s loss which will only become a talking point if Chelsea beat City to the title by one in goal difference.
What happens if Everton secure a draw because Lukaku scores a goal on Arsenal? Everton get one point, but Chelsea have to look at that as two extra points gained.
I can see Chelsea and City voraciously buying the best young players in world football and then loaning them out to various clubs to sink or swim. Why wouldn’t they? Every point those players take off a top-four rival is a point in their pocket.
And let’s be honest here, Lukaku is that good. Maybe he’s not that good right now, but I think he’s one of a handful of players who are going to be good enough to play for a top club one day.
What makes Lukaku such a huge talent is that he’s 20 years old and he’s already a composed finisher. Garden variety strikers take time to mature into good finishers — 27 or 28 years old — but Lukaku already had a season and change where he has shown that he can finish.
Take this chart of his shots this season:
Light green is the 6 yard box, dark green is the 18 yard box, red is a goal, blue is a shot that the keeper saved (or was cleared off the line) and black is a shot that missed entirely or was blocked. In the final 10 yards, Lukaku is 9 out of 10 for getting shots on target and has 5 goals from those 10 shots. The remainder of his shots, he’s 6 of 13 getting on target and 2 for 13 converting to goals.
Lukaku is shooting a crazy percent of his shots on target, he’s only missed the mark 8 times out of 23, and that almost always equates to a hot start. But this is the second consecutive year that he has shot at a high percentage, he was 47/99 on target last season.
Now here’s Giroud:
Olivier Giroud has been the beneficiary of 18 shots in the final 10 yards. He has only managed 7 of 18 on target and 5 of 18 goals. Outside 10 yards, he’s 7 of 25 on target and just 2 of 25 for goals. And like Lukaku, his form has basically continued from last season — last year he converted 11 of 38 shots on goal, which he got from 107 total shots.
And finally, here’s Benteke:
And as you can see, Benteke is useless. He wins a lot of headers but for me he’s never lived up to his reputation as a fearsome finisher. 3 shots on goal from 11 attempts in the 10 yard area. 8 out of 16 on frame from distance and 2 out of 16 converted into goals.
It’s early in the season and of course we want to exercise a bit of caution over looking at a stats set like 23 shots (Lukaku) and drawing too many conclusions. But so far the data confirms what I see with my own two eyes, Lukaku is a dangerous finisher, whereas Giroud and Benteke are not.
That’s why people are talking him up. That’s why people want him at Arsenal. And that, plus the fact he’s like having a Manchurian Candidate destabilizing the League, is exactly why Chelsea would never sell him to Arsenal.