It seems incredible to think that as we enter October a Chelsea striker is still yet to register in the Premier League (bar Romelu Lukaku). The only other clubs in the Premier League to share this statistic are West Ham United (who have had their main forward Andy Carroll missing all season) and Hull City and even then the latter could classify Sone Aluko as a striker.
Clearly these are worrying times for Chelsea and they are exacerbated by two former Blues’ strikers doing well at new clubs. Daniel Sturridge has been a revelation since joining Liverpool and this season he has flourished in his central role. Clearly Sturridge is a player that needs to be loved and although he was often a frustrating figure at Stamford Bridge the talent was there to see. Under Roberto di Matteo and André Villas-Boas he was often played out on the right wing but he was an important part of our play and he added some much needed pace to the side. He never felt loved and it was obvious he was angling for a move in the early stages of last season.
Then there is Romelu Lukaku, who has picked up at Everton from where he left off with West Brom. Lukaku scored on his debut against West Ham two weeks ago and on Monday night he scored a brace against Newcastle. I’ve seen a lot of journalists try to reason with Chelsea fans by pointing out that it is only a loan move and the regular game time he gets with Everton benefits all three parties involved. The problem is not the future benefits; it is what he could offer Chelsea right now. Lukaku is a player on form and when he is given the service he does give you goals. He is the only Chelsea striker who looks close to match fitness and sharpness and as I mentioned in a previous post it was clearly an error to let him go on loan.
After Monday’s victory Everton manager Roberto Martinez reiterated that there was no recall clause in Lukaku’s loan contract meaning we have to make do, until January at least, with Eto’o, Torres and Ba. The latter seems to have completely fallen out of favour and I would be surprised to see him stay at the club past the January transfer window. Mourinho clearly wants three strikers to make sure the squad isn’t struck with disaster if one gets injured. The problem is though that his policy of only playing one forward means one striker will normally be left desperately short of match fitness. On Saturday against Tottenham Fernando Torres looked like a real threat, making direct runs and causing the Tottenham defence problems. The only criticism you could levy at Torres would be that he didn’t shoot enough. We are still awaiting results of a knee scan on an injury he picked up in the opening stages of the Steaua game but suspension will rule him out of the Norwich game regardless.
His place will be taken by Eto’o, a man who has flattered to deceive since joining on a one year deal from Russian side Anzhi. Against Steaua he was presented with a glorious one on one chance but it was too close to the keeper and although it did lead to our second you can’t help but feel that Eto’o under Mourinho at Inter would have buried that. Perhaps that is the main problem, Mourinho believes he can get Eto’o to replicate that form when in reality he is a different player and he doesn’t look anywhere near as sharp.
I can’t see Chelsea taking up the option to extend Eto’o contract past this season and a new striker could arrive in January but at the moment it is hard to see who. Lewandowski, Rooney, Higuain, Falcao, Cavani, Suarez, Jovetic and Gomez these are all names that are now unavailable. Rodrigo of Benfica would represent an interesting option; the Spaniard is quick, direct and normally clinical. He isn’t the world-class talent that we are looking for (yet) but for me there is one name that would be potentially brilliant, if practically unfeasible. Manchester United’s striking options at the moment mean that Javier Hernandez is not playing very regularly and he could seek a move away if it continues. I’m a huge fan of the Mexican, even if he always scores against us, and he is a proven finisher. The deal would probably not be possible but playing regularly, with Mata, Oscar and Hazard behind him he could be a real threat.
As I said that will probably never happen but he is exactly the sort of player we need. Hopefully Torres’ knee injury isn’t serious because at the moment he looks like Chelsea’s most threatening striker. If it is only a short term thing then the pressure will really be on Eto’o against Norwich because once Torres’ suspension is over he will be raring to go again.