When reviewing a Premier League campaign, a club’s entire season can be defined by a single moment.
That could be a Steven Gerrard slip, an injury to a star man or a stroke or fortune or misfortune. However, one of the most bizarre incidents of the entire year surely has to be Jose Mourinho’s decision to ship striker Romelu Lukaku out to Everton on loan.
The lack of a top-class forward to lead the line has been Chelsea’s Achilles' heel this term and is ultimately what most fans will attribute as the chief reasoning behind their first trophyless season since 2011.
Despite boasting a creative midfield arsenal of Eden Hazard, Oscar, Willian, Frank Lampard and Andre Schurrle, the Blues have often struggled for goals this season. Chelsea have found the target 69 times prior to Sunday’s final match against Cardiff—even though that puts them third in the scoring charts, it leaves them 30 behind Liverpool and 31 adrift of Manchester City.
Whilst Liverpool duo Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge are joined by City’s Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure as the Premier League’s top four scorers, Hazard is the only player to even reach double figures in the league for Chelsea this term.
Chelsea’s three main strikers, Fernando Torres, Samuel Eto’o and Demba Ba, have all struggled this season, and their lack of firepower has ultimately led to the chase of £35 million-rated Atletico Madrid man Diego Costa, as reported by Goal.com’s Wayne Veysey.
That marquee signing could solve a lot of Chelsea’s problems next season, but you cannot help feel that keeping Lukaku would’ve eradicated most of those issues this term—and probably seen the title heading to Stamford Bridge.
Not only has Lukaku matched the 14 goals scored by Belgian compatriot Hazard, the 20-year-old additionally boasts a physique that would have surely suited Chelsea’s 4-2-3-1 formation.
Whilst Torres has spent much of the season walking around with body language of a school kid who has just stepped in dog excrement, Ba has looked sheepish and Eto’o has appeared to be searching for the nearest retirement home, Lukaku has inspired Everton to one of their best Premier League campaigns.
As per Whoscored.com, the Belgian has provided six assists and has a match rating of 7.29 to complement his 14 goals this season—a tally that is only four short of Chelsea’s other three strikers combined. It's not as if he emerged out of nowhere either; the Belgian was brilliant for West Brom in 2012/13.
Physically, Lukaku is a monster of a man and is very much in the same ilk of former Blues hero Didier Drogba in that respect. The Belgian is believed to be the long-term successor to the Ivorian, but it seems ludicrous that Mourinho allowed him to join Everton on loan.
Had Chelsea loaned out the youngster in July, you could have forgiven the Blues for doing so. However, Everton didn’t complete the temporary signing until September. Admittedly, Mourinho had just secured the services of Eto’o from Russian side Anzhi. Nevertheless, the decision to allow Lukaku to depart was one that raised a lot of eyebrows.
Those doubts over Mourinho’s decision have proven to be right, and the absence of Lukaku is arguably the sole reason that Chelsea have not claimed a fourth Premier League crown.
Chelsea’s superior record against the Premier League’s elite opposition, fantastic defensive record and run to the Champions League semi-finals all highlight that the Blues have had most of the tools required to succeed. The only thing missing was that killer instinct, something that Lukaku possesses in abundance.
Lukaku’s talent has not gone unnoticed by the Chelsea boss either. According to Liam Prenderville of the Daily Mirror, the inability to break down the likes of West Ham, Norwich, Aston Villa and Crystal Palace has cost Chelsea dearly this season—the option of Lukaku would have surely made a crucial difference.
Mourinho is a superb manager and the Blues will be back fighting for the title again next season, but the Chelsea boss has truly dropped a clanger with Lukaku. He dare not make the same mistake next term.