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Future looks bright for sharp Lukaku

Tuesday 15-January-2013 14:30

The arrival of Demba Ba at Chelsea earlier in the month saw West Brom fans take a huge sigh of relief, effectively confirming that Romelu Lukaku would be staying at the club for the rest of the season.

The Belgian made it clear that he wanted to stay at the Hawthorns in order to get regular first-team football. However, having only started eight league games this season, had Ba not signed - coupled with the form of Fernando Torres - many Blues fans would have been keen for the youngster to return to the Bridge.

The fact that Lukaku has scored more goals (nine) than he has started league games this season suggests, however, that his run in the Baggies first team may be more prolonged than it was in the first half of the campaign.

Certainly, his performance against Reading was enough to convince many that he is one of the Premier League's top strikers right now.

With this in mind, we look into his vital statistics in front of goal to see how he compares to Chelsea's current options up front, along with the Blues legend that he was tipped to succeed.

In turn, the timing of this piece seems appropriate as Lukaku and Chelsea's first-choice striker for the first half of the season, Torres, have now attempted the exact same number of shots.

A look at Lukaku's player page on WhoScored.com shows the Belgian's nine-goal tally has come from 47 attempts at goal, meaning his conversion rate of 19.1% is considerably better than Torres, who has seven goals to his name and a conversion rate of 14.9%.

The much-maligned Spaniard has, however, recorded a better conversion rate thus far than new signing Demba Ba, despite scoring six fewer goals (13). The former Newcastle man has attempted fewer shots this season than only Luis Suarez, so his success rate is down at 14.3%.

Lukaku's figure is enough to rank him among the top 10 strikers in the league to have attempted at least 20 shots. Torres' conversion rate is enough to see him rank a respectable 13th in the same regard, while Ba is just behind in 15th.

The biggest difference here, however, comes when analysing the Premier League stats from last season of Didier Drogba, admittedly well into the twilight years of his career at that stage.

Though the Ivorian was rightly heralded as a hero in Chelsea's successful Champions League and FA Cup campaigns, his league form was pretty dismal. With five goals from 65 shots, his conversion rate was just 7.7%. This means that if Lukaku were to play the final 16 games of the season maintaining his current average of 2.35 shots per game, he wouldn't need to score again all season to finish with a better conversion rate than Drogba.

Indeed, in terms of shots per game, the young Belgian's figure seems modest. In comparison, Demba Ba has attempted 4.33 shots per game, while Torres' average is similar at 2.24.

However, with all of Lukaku's substitute appearances, it is far more accurate to consider the minutes-per-shot ratios of the respective players, with Lukaku's 20 far more aligned to Demba Ba's 19.1. The most significant finding shows that Torres' figure is up at 36.8, almost twice that of the aforementioned duo and a clear sign of the troubles he has had since moving to London.

Looking at the rest of the league once more, again studying all strikers to attempt at least 20 shots thus far, Ba (fourth) and Lukaku (sixth) both rank highly for minutes per shot. Torres, however, is way down in 33rd in comparison and his lack of confidence in front of goal continues to remain apparent despite an improved goal tally this time around.

Moving on to shot accuracy, the Belgium international again excels, trumping both of his future team-mates once more. With 24 of his 47 efforts testing the keeper thus far, his accuracy of 51.1% is superb.

Meanwhile, Torres actually impresses here too, with 48.9% of his efforts hitting the target, while Demba Ba fares significantly worse, with 41.8%. Only Javier Hernandez can beat Lukaku's accuracy and while just Andi Weimann, in addition to the Belgian, beats Torres' figure, Ba is down in 18th of strikers to attempt 20 shots in the current campaign.

There is no doubt then that the teenager's stats more than stand up against his competitors, and the weight of his involvement under an as yet unknown Chelsea boss next season will be intriguing.

In the more immediate future, however, an already downhearted Villa fanbase will be dreading his impending performance in the Midlands derby this weekend, which throws up another interesting comparison.

For the Villans, Lukaku's compatriot Christian Benteke leads the line with wavering success. While also proving a handful for defenders, his finishing is questionable to say the least, and a 9.7% conversion rate is almost half that of the Baggies striker.

Benteke's been getting the upper hand on the national scene of late and Villa boss Paul Lambert will be hoping he comes out on top again this weekend - but on current form, there is only one winner.

All stats courtesy of WhoScored.com. Follow Martin Laurence on Twitter at @martinlaurence7.

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