Inter Milan have smashed their transfer record to bring in Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku from Manchester United for a fee of around 80 million euros. The proposed transfer was one of the hottest topics this summer but the deal was finalised earlier this week; much to the relief of Nerazzurri fans who were concerned that the move was off.
Antonio Conte and Romelu Lukaku have made little secret of the fact that they are great fans of one another; the Belgian expressing his desire to play under Conte for some time whilst the new Inter head coach had his mind set on Lukaku from the very start of his tenure at the club.
Lukaku has received a lot of criticism in the past few seasons for Manchester United; many questioning whether or not he is worth the high market value that is attached to him. So, in this piece, I’m going to break down the forward’s statistics from the last season with Manchester United as I attempt to work out whether or not he is destined for success or failure with the Nerazzurri.
Is Lukaku any good?
As I previously mentioned, the Belgian has divided opinion. Some believe that he is a real talent whilst others dismiss him, focusing solely on his weaknesses and the infamous clips that circulate Twitter of the forward’s first touch and miscontrols.
This is my statistical breakdown of Lukaku. First and foremost, it is important to note that the Belgian is clinical and competent in front of goal. Despite registering just 12 goals in the Premier League last season, his lowest since the 14/15 campaign with Everton, much of this can be put down to the turmoil the club went through on a whole; slumping to a sixth place finish behind many of their closest rivals.
Despite his goal tally, Lukaku scored an impressive 21.2% of all his shots on goal, an extremely high statistic which shows just how dangerous he can be in front of goal. Furthermore, with 57.1% of his shots on target, from around 2.2 shots per 90 minutes, the Belgian is not wasteful and picks and chooses his chances; an important attribute for any striker to possess.
In addition, Lukaku possesses a high level of aerial ability. Out of the 7.01 duels he attempts per 90, he wins 45.3% of them; vital for holding up play as well as picking out a header from a set-piece or cross. The fact he attempts over 7 per 90 minutes also indicates that, at least for United anyway, he did not shy away from aerial battles and would challenge for it if he deemed it necessary; a trait that I am sure Conte will appreciate.
Lukaku’s main weakness is his dribbling. Last season for Manchester United, he attempted 3.25 per 90 and won just 50% of those battles. This could use some improving but given a change of scenery and proper coaching, this can definitely be worked on. Furthermore, he also has shown difficulties with creating chances for his teammates, with a low xA statistic as well as a pass accuracy of just over 70% last season for the Red Devils.
How does Lukaku compare with Mauro Icardi?
Alongside Lukaku, one of the other most discussed players of the transfer window so far has been existing Inter forward Mauro Icardi. The Argentine has been the centre of controversy in 2019 after being stripped of his captaincy and sitting out of the squad for some time, after growing tensions between the player and his wife-agent Wanda Nara and Inter themselves.
Even if Icardi ends up staying with Inter, Lukaku is for all intents and purposes his replacement at the club. From the chart below, I will explore the duo in comparison with one another and establish if Inter have upgraded with the Belgian.
The main thing about Lukaku and Icardi is that although they are fundamentally similar players, their varied strengths and weaknesses make them slightly different and one is more suited for certain roles than the other.
Icardi has a greater xA and pass accuracy %, meaning that he is generally more reliable in build-up play and chance creation. Conte will need his main striker to have good awareness of his teammates, given Conte’s 3-5-2 tactic and the two strikers that occupy within it. Lukaku’s statistics could be reflective of the fact that he played as a sole striker last season and this, therefore, did not give the best representation of his build-up attributes.
However, across the board, Lukaku appears to be a more competent striker than the Argentine. With a greater goal conversion % and shot accuracy %, Lukaku is less wasteful than Icardi; the latter also registering more shots per 90 minutes. Lukaku’s prolificacy will be vital to helping him make his mark in Italy; proving that you do not need to register 3 or 4 shots per match to make an impact in a goal-scoring sense.
Additionally, although Icardi and Lukaku share a similar percentage of aerial duels won, Lukaku attempts around double that of the Argentine forward, showing a tendency to go for those high balls as previously mentioned.
Interestingly, despite the criticism Lukaku receives for his dribbling, he has in fact better statistics than Icardi for this category. There is a real chance that Lukaku can improve further under Conte’s coaching and make the memes ridiculing his dribbling a thing of the past in this new environment.
Is he a good fit for Conte’s system?
This is a tough question to answer before we properly see the way that the Italian coach utilises his new signing. However, one way that we can see how he may fit is by comparing him to a striker who was used by Conte in a similar way to how we expect Lukaku will be at Inter.
Here is the comparison between Romelu Lukaku last season for Manchester United and the statistics of Spanish striker Diego Costa in the 16/17 campaign for Chelsea; where Conte was the manager and the club lifted the English Premier League trophy.
Once again, Lukaku triumphs in terms of his prolificacy in front of goal and his lack of wasted chances. With a higher shot accuracy, as well as goal conversion %, Lukaku has demonstrated exactly why he is the perfect striker and will aim to help Conte convert many opportunities this season. It is arguably far more important for a striker to have a high quality of shot rather than quantity, as it can help make the difference in tight situations.
Interestingly, Lukaku also had a greater percentage of aerial duels and dribbles won last season than Costa did in the 16/17 campaign; especially impressive given the fact that United slumped to that 6th place finish whilst Chelsea won the league in the chosen season.
However, also like with Icardi, Costa’s creation of chances and passing excels that of Lukaku. Although, as Costa featured within Conte’s 3-5-2 this season, it could be that having a strike partner was responsible for these numbers and therefore the same could be reflected within Lukaku this season.
Romelu Lukaku is an expensive gamble for Inter to take. Costing 80 million euros, he is therefore one of the most pricey transfer this summer and also one of the most costly strikers of all time. However, once again a big club has chosen to take this expensive risk on the Belgian and not without good cause.
He is undoubtedly a talented finisher of the ball and his prolificacy in front of goal is almost worth the value alone. He may find that the slower pace and more technical nature of Serie A suits him well and playing under a coach who truly values his input is also likely to see him thrive.
On face value, Conte, Lukaku and Inter look like a 3-way marriage made in heaven; it is now down to them to prove it in the upcoming campaign.
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