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Lukaku bullies Arsenal into submission for Chelsea

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Chelsea’s Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku (2nd L) holds off a challenge from Arsenal’s Spanish defender Pablo Mari (L) during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium in London on August 22, 2021. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP)


Romelu Lukaku marked his second Chelsea debut with his first Premier League goal for the Blues as the European champions outclassed Arsenal 2-0 on Sunday to compound the Gunners’ miserable start to the season.

The Belgian has returned to Stamford Bridge for a club record £97 million ($132 million) as the missing piece of a proven goalscorer to turn the Champions League winners into English champions.

Thomas Tuchel’s men have made a formidable start towards that aim with six points, five goals scored and none conceded from their opening two games of the Premier League season.

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Arsenal, by contrast, have yet to register a point or score a goal as the gulf between Mikel Arteta’s men and the title contenders was exposed.

Circumstances have also gone against Arteta as he lost £50 million signing Ben White before the game to the fifth positive case for coronavirus among his squad in the past 10 days.

A difficult start could get even worse with a trip to defending champions Manchester City next weekend before an international break.

Arsenal’s latest signings Martin Odegaard and Aaron Ramsdale were not registered in time to feature.

Those arrivals took the Gunners spending in the transfer window above any other Premier League club despite a fifth season without Champions League football.

But whereas Chelsea needed to fill just one position to complete a squad already stacked with quality, Arsenal appear to be starting from scratch.

A bright start in front of the first full house at the Emirates for 17 months quickly dissipated once Chelsea found their rhythm and began to play to Lukaku’s strengths.

The former Inter Milan striker received the ball with his back to goal on 15 minutes, shrugged off Pablo Mari as the ball was worked to Reece James on the right and then stayed onside to tap home his 114th Premier League goal for four different clubs.

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Lukaku should have been given another on a plate moments later when James instead picked out Mason Mount, whose shot was deflected behind.

But Arsenal did not learn their lesson and afforded James huge spaces being the right.

Mount picked out his England teammate 10 minutes before half-time and James thrashed a brilliant finish high past Bernd Leno.

James, though, was lucky just before the break when his push on Bukayo Saka as he burst into the box went unpunished by both referee Paul Tierney and VAR.

Rob Holding should have halved Arsenal’s deficit after the break when the centre-back headed wide from close range.

At the other end Leno also did his case to hold off Ramsdale as number one no harm with an incredible save to deny Lukaku a debut double as he turned a bullet header onto the crossbar.

Lukaku turned away in disbelief as he watched the replay on a big screen, but his presence has blown away any lasting doubts over Chelsea’s ability to challenge City in the title race this season.

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