Chelsea have joined the race for the EPL title with the arrival of Lukaku

Chelsea have joined the race for the EPL title with the arrival of Lukaku

Chelsea are Champions League holders. Boss Thomas Tuchel has had a transformative impact on their style and defensive solidity since joining in January. And they showed a steely mentality under the German to edge tight matches in both that run to European glory and to grab a top-four finish in last season's Premier League.

With real strength in depth to call upon, all the signs are pointing towards a genuine title challenge in 2021/22.

The signing of Romelu Lukaku will surely make that a reality.

The Blues' record in cup competitions has been an impressive one of late. But to achieve success across a 38-game season entails different demands.

To become league champions requires a relentless consistency, winning week in, week out. But while they've pulled off brilliant performances in one-off games, Chelsea's wastefulness in front of goal has meant they've been unable to match the standards set by Premier League winners Manchester City and Liverpool in recent seasons.

Only six teams had a lower shot conversion rate than Chelsea in the Premier League last season and three of those sides were relegated. Only four sides had a poorer return on their Expected Goals figure.

Under Tuchel's watch Wolves, Manchester United, Leeds, Brighton, and Arsenal all shut out Chelsea, despite the Blues dominating the shot count in each game except the one with Brighton.

It added up to a frustrating picture for Tuchel. The team were creating good moments but not taking their chances.

Timo Werner was the chief culprit last season, with the forward scoring just 21 per cent of his clear-cut chances, the second worst return from any player presented with more than 10 big openings.

His situation is an enigmatic one, given how impressive his scoring record had been in Germany but, after a couple of bad misses for his country at Euro 2020, a recent friendly with Arsenal suggested his finishing still hasn't clicked into gear.

But he's not alone. Tammy Abraham has shone in glimpses but not regularly enough to convince Tuchel. Olivier Giroud, who had come up with key goals for the club, has left for AC Milan. Kai Havertz - their Champions League final hero - has bags of potential but is still to prove he can do it consistently in the Premier League.

It's a problem which stretches back as far as 2017, when Diego Costa left the club.

But Chelsea supporters will believe they have their new star striker now. Or should that be their old one?

Lukaku - 10 years after he first joined Chelsea from Anderlecht - is every inch the world class finisher they need to get their hands back on the Premier League trophy.

Since failing to impress at Stamford Bridge first time around, the Belgian has been nothing but prolific. He scored 87 goals in 166 games for Everton, and after a last-minute move to Manchester United when a Chelsea return seemed on the cards in 2017, he scored 42 times in 96 appearances for the Old Trafford club.

Despite that conversion rate, his time at United was seen as something of a disappointment. But critics who pounced on his poor touch or struggles against the rest of the Big Six were far quieter last season when his 24 goals in Serie A took Inter Milan to the Italian title.

At 28, Chelsea are getting a Lukaku in his pomp - and, although he'll play it down, he has a point to prove.

Some may look at how Manchester City won the Premier League last season and suggest the importance of an out-and-out No 9 is on the decline.

But whoever was pulling the trigger in Pep Guardiola's team, they were far sharper than Chelsea's forwards.

City scored with 19.5 per cent of their efforts at goal in 2020/21, the third best return in the league. They also out-performed their Expected Goals figure by 14.1, with only Tottenham topping that.

It led to them scoring 83 goals in total - twenty-five more than Chelsea.

Never mind the eventual 19-point difference between the sides in the league, that goal gap is a telling one and the issue Tuchel must address if Chelsea are to get back into title contention.

With Lukaku now in his ranks, Chelsea finally have the firepower to go toe-to-toe with England's best over the full 10-month campaign.

If they can get the supply lines right - and with the wealth of creativity in the club that should be achievable - Chelsea have a strong chance of adding more silverware to their collection come the Premier League's final day in May.

Chelsea's summer transfers
In

Marcus Bettinelli - Fulham, free

Out

Fikayo Tomori - AC Milan, £25m

Willy Caballero - contract expired

Izzy Brown - contract expired

Jamal Blackman - contract expired

Pierre Ekwah Elimby - West Ham, undisclosed

Danilo Pantic - Partizan Belgrade, undisclosed

Nathan Baxter - Hull, loan

Billy Gilmour - Norwich City, loan

Victor Moses - Spartak Moscow, undisclosed

Juan Castillo - Birmingham, loan

Olivier Giroud - AC Milan, undisclosed

Marc Guehi - Crystal Palace, undisclosed

Lewis Bate - Leeds, undisclosed

Henry Lawrence - AFC Wimbledon, loan

Tino Livramento - Southampton, undisclosed

Jamie Cumming - Gillingham, loan

Jack Wakely - Wycombe, free

Ian Maatsen - Coventry, loan
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