Romelu Lukaku has been reflecting on Everton's disappointments in 2015-16 so far while also offering plenty of optimism for the future, both for him personally and Everton's other young guns as well.
The Blues' prolific striker is getting plenty of exposure this week after sitting down with the press at a Kick It Out event at Longmoor Community Primary School in Liverpool this and chatting with Roger Bennett in an absorbing interview for the Men In Blazers podcast.
It offers further insight into a remarkably mature and self-aware player who is enjoying his best season so far, with 20 goals and the prospect of more to come, particularly if Everton can maintain the form that has seen them win 3-0 in three successive games to progress to the fifth round of the FA Cup and move back into contention for European qualification.
It gives Evertonians hope that the Blues can salvage something from a season that once again promised much but which, despite providing many thrills along the way, has ultimately been “below expectations,” as Lukaku puts it. Indeed, the 22-year-old striker is mystified by the fact that Everton aren’t challenging among the top four in the most wide-open Premier League season in years.
“You can’t believe we are in this type of situation because some of the teams above us are not better than us and we should’ve done much better than we are now,” he said in The Telegraph. “We are lucky that in the league, this year, the gaps are so small that two more wins and we’re up there again.
“It is a really strange situation but maybe it is in our favour. We will only know at the end of the season but at the moment we can only say that two more wins and we are in a good situation.
“But it means that in the Cup we have to go all out, 100%. I am pinning a lot of my hopes on the FA Cup. I want to win something."
Blues need more edge
Lukaku, who has started every Premier League game this season, acknowledges that the last couple of weeks have been better but he maintains that Everton "have to be clinical” if they are to seize their second chance at a Wembley final after blowing a two-goal advantage in the Capital One Cup semi-final against Manchester City and become a little “nastier” in general.
“By that I mean closing the game out, making fouls in midfield. Game-management,” Lukaku continues. "Be rude to the opponent. Play on the edge a little bit. That’s what you have to have, I think. And if we add that to our footballing qualities it will be good. I think players with the most desire to win are the players who are playing almost on the edge.
“Every good game I play is because I play 100 per cent because I am that type of player and I always play with that desire to win and I get angry really easily on the pitch.”
Bennett asked the striker what he feels has changed since the disappointment at City where the Blues led 3-1 on aggregate but ended up losing 4-3 over the two ties when they conceded two second-half goals at the Etihad Stadium.
“We are better organised,” Lukaku explained. "First of all, we don’t concede goals. We go out on the pitch knowing we can score whenever we want because we are one of the best attacks in the League but the thing to win games is [conceding] so everybody has to work defensively so we don’t concede. It’s really defensively where we have made a big improvement."
Asked what Leicester City, the surprise package of the season, have that Everton have lacked, the Belgian international admitted:
“They have the organisation. Leicester have a very good defence and they are very well organised. Every time they recover the ball they are looking for the pass. Their game plan is very simple but very effective. It’s really fascinating how they stick to the plan. Everybody works hard defensively and they keep a good shape.
"They are a very difficult team to break down but once they recover the ball they don’t think twice, they always look forward so they know they will always be able to exploit the space.
Lukaku was also asked to expand upon what he now sees as success for Everton for the remainder of the season and he singled out the FA Cup as the primary objective.
“It’s simple — the FA Cup, and [to finish] as high up in the League [as possible]. We can’t really lean on [that one] competition when you’re only playing once every three weeks [so we have to] do well in both; keep the momentum going that we have now in the League. But the FA Cup is something we have to go for; everybody wants to win something."
Still room to grow
There is a feeling among supporters that to achieve either tangible success with a trophy or to finish in the European places would be enough evidence of progression to keep the ambitious Lukaku and the other members of the so-called “Fab Four”, rounded out by Ross Barkley, John Stones and Gerard Deulofeu, at Goodison Park beyond the summer. In that regard, Evertonians scrutinise their star striker’s words for hints as to what he is thinking about his future.
His rather cryptic sign-off in his Men In Blazers interview will have come as something of a cliff-hanger to listening Blues but in outlining to the other media his belief that Everton can be much stronger next season, he will have sowed some hope that he intends to see where things take him at Goodison over the next 15 months at the very least.
“I’m the kind of athlete who always sets himself some challenges, but only short term,” he continued in his conversation with Bennett. "I want to have a good end to the season, be as fit as I can to help my team-mates win the games, win the FA Cup and, in the summer, be European Champions and then, the rest, I will just see.
"I know what I want, but I can’t tell,” he laughed.
Lukaku described to the national and local media at Longmoor how he feels he still has plenty of room to grow himself while empathising with his team-mates who are around his age and of whom so much is expected given the spotlight shining on them. Barkley is emerging from a difficult second season to become a focal point of Roberto Martinez’s team but Stones, having weathered the press storm around Chelsea’s bid for him last August and the request for a transfer that was turned down, is having to work through his own challenges now.
“I would say people forget sometimes I am only seven months older than Ross,” Lukaku said. “I am judged differently because I have had two big moves. But I can understand that, I can understand people’s expectations. If you look at my goal-scoring record throughout my career then it is good.
“In fact it’s really good at the moment and especially for my age but I just know it’s part of the game.
“I want the critics to make me even tougher than I am now. The better you get, the more time you spend on your career. I am the type of guy who is very professional but now I do everything and sacrifice so much to be in the best shape for my team. Football is 24/7 - it’s resting, perform. Eat, work, sleep, repeat. Every single day. It’s like a machine and I take pride in it because it’s my job, it’s my passion and at the end of the day I just want to score goals.
“I am getting better at everything. Getting better with every game. Because when I play against an opponent I am strong, and I am strong, tall, very fast. I can dribble, I can score with both feet and my head. I can hold up the ball so like when people say: ‘oh he’s unplayable’ I’m saying: ‘OK, I am unplayable that day but I have to try and be unplayable every single game’.
“There is still room for improvement because I am young and I know it’s not perfect. But I am getting where I want to be and I want to keep up the same consistency and to do better next season."
“It is easier to put a 21-year-old out of the team than a 32-year-old so you need to keep working and keep progressing,” Lukaku continued. "That is my personal challenge, to keep progressing and keep working.
“Ross gets it as well now and Stonesy is going through a period that he has never had in his career. He is going through a period now because he knows Funes Mori is knocking on the door and Jags is doing great. That is when you know it is a mental aspect now that has to come up.”
Encouragingly, he added: “If you look forward and down the line, then Champions League is the objective of the club with us.
“You have Geri, myself, Ross, Stonesy. We are the four but you have to deliver more wins, get that nastiness inside of us but you don’t get that straight away, but with age. So if you talk about next season then you can say that those boys are ready.
“Now, to be fair, this is Ross’s best season in the Prem, it is Stonesy’s best season in the Prem so people expect from him, it is Geri’s best season in the Prem and this is my best season in the Prem as well.
“I’ve scored as many goals as last season but we are only halfway. But because I’m a striker, nothing has changed, it is always the same drill but it is different for them because they play in a different position.
“I have been in the game for six or seven years now, so I know how it is. This is nothing new, I know the expectations from people but then, for them, how are people going to judge them?
“But that is when they have to realise ‘I have been in this situation before and nothing is going to stop me’ and next year the team is going to much stronger than it has been this season.”
Reader Comments (59)
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1 Posted 11/02/2016 at 20:20:06
But who knows how things will change between now and September.
I'd love to see the fruits of the development when the four all hit 23 next season.
2 Posted 11/02/2016 at 20:31:11
Much as he is my favourite player I think Stones would be a much easier player to replace than Lukaku who we rely on hugely.
Much will depend on how we end the season. If we keep up the levels of the last few games, qualify for Europe and win the FA cup then Romelu may well stick around one more year. If we go the other way and end up 12th then I suspect he'll be gone. His agent will be touting him round either way...
3 Posted 11/02/2016 at 20:38:23
4 Posted 11/02/2016 at 20:49:02
5 Posted 11/02/2016 at 21:04:39
6 Posted 11/02/2016 at 21:12:41
7 Posted 11/02/2016 at 21:26:30
You certainly are, young man. Just the one thing left: You need to appreciate the brute strength you have. You then need to get more angry and utilise that strength to intimidate defenders.
When the penny drops, you will be the complete centre-forward.
8 Posted 11/02/2016 at 21:27:23
9 Posted 11/02/2016 at 21:27:23
10 Posted 11/02/2016 at 21:31:29
11 Posted 11/02/2016 at 21:40:14
12 Posted 11/02/2016 at 21:58:13
13 Posted 11/02/2016 at 22:00:19
14 Posted 11/02/2016 at 22:06:43
#Just to add to the debate.
I'm watching the news on BBC1; that Einstein was ahead of his time. Can he be our manager?
15 Posted 11/02/2016 at 22:27:01
16 Posted 11/02/2016 at 22:27:24
17 Posted 11/02/2016 at 22:35:17
If the super rich clubs decide to revive their super league then good riddance, they can bore each other to death.
18 Posted 11/02/2016 at 22:38:39
19 Posted 11/02/2016 at 22:52:29
I hope he stays, but I wouldn't bet on it.
20 Posted 11/02/2016 at 23:15:02
We should cash in on Stones,he wants to go anyway and at the minute he's a real liability to us,I don't know how many goals he's cost us.
Get £50m for him and go for him and go for Shawcross or someone like that and a better goalie,here's hoping hehe.
21 Posted 11/02/2016 at 23:56:24
Correct, but if it wasn't for Roberto Martinez he would never have signed for Everton in the first place.
22 Posted 11/02/2016 at 00:01:33
23 Posted 11/02/2016 at 00:05:18
24 Posted 12/02/2016 at 00:12:06
I think the players (possibly minus Stones) are happy to stick around beyond the end of this season, especially if we finish strongly and who knows, maybe bag the FA Cup? European football would certainly be a big plus if we get there.
We need to progress however - Lukaku won't be here at 26 saying that the next season will be the one to break through.
25 Posted 12/02/2016 at 00:22:25
Rom is the jewel in the Everton crown and he's grabbed that title with both hands, carrying us this season.
One more season is on his mind by the sounds of it, that is at least if a huge club doesn't come calling.
Real Madrid, Man u/city, Bayern etc and he will jump, and rightly so, he's a top class forward and he has to look after number 1.
If we are lucky enough to keep him beyond this season we will have an absolute animal on our hands and some amazing young talent around him.
2016-17 could bring us Champions League football if Roberto sorts his defence out, and weather Rom stays or goes after then we could still be in an amazing position.
A good end to this season,a half decent European Championships and something similar next season goal wise and Rom could be worth crazy money.
26 Posted 12/02/2016 at 00:26:45
Besides, if we're talking about a Premier League move, who are the top 4 now? Are they any better than we are going to be? So why move on?
I really believe we are on the verge of being a great, great team, with the players maturing and developing; it's just an evolution thing that is slowly starting to happen.
Additionally there is the potential takeover and it will be an exciting time for the players, fans and club alike. Relax dudes, have a Chang and enjoy the ride. We are Everton and we're coming to get you!!
27 Posted 12/02/2016 at 00:32:10
Gerard: Not everyone has to be "nasty" in a good footballing team. We had Reid and Van den Hauwe, but also had Sheedy (wouldn't look at a tackle let alone make one) and Trevor Steven (not renowned for his nastiness but brilliant on the ball). All about balance.
Max: Some people will always blame the manager for everything (as is their right); be that Martinez, Moyes and those who have gone before them.
John: I agree but in the modern game with the TV / Media pumping so much money into the game they demand (is it contracted?) that players and managers conduct interviews. They get chastised if they don't.
Colin & Tony. Quality. The purist in me is with you and has been for a long time. I sat at City home a few years ago, 1-0 down at half time but having been absolutely, outclassed sat their dejectedly thinking what's the point? We actually won 2-1 that day but it didn't mask the gulf created by hobbyism.
Eddie: Now mate, I'm a heavy critic of English football and the reasons it is in the state it is. Firstly, he's a striker, not a midfielder - I want him to stick a foot out, not leave one in as he should be getting tackled, not tackling. Asking a young striker who will only get better to "leave a foot in" is out of the Mike Basset school of management. He's already scored 20 goals (for the second season running; something we haven't had since Graeme Sharp), so the lad isn't doing much wrong in my opinion.
As always, like yourselves, just my opinion!
28 Posted 12/02/2016 at 01:44:59
They all signed for, play for and seem to believe in Bobby so maybe it's us that's wrong...
29 Posted 12/02/2016 at 06:11:28
Whether or not it's Phil Jagielka's return and return to form and full-fitness, a reliance on two-centre backs whose first focus is defence, having left and right mid-fielders who understand when to track back and who will do it for 90 minutes who can say?
I suspect that it's a combination of all three.
In selection terms it comes down to:
Miralllas vs Cleverly
Deulofeu vs Lennon
Stones vs Funes Mori (and Jagielka playing on the "wrong" side)
I'd argue that in the first of those its Cleverly for me all day. However RM has consistently looked to have a player left who will go wide when we have recovered the ball but then drift to support Lukaku, sometimes going wide right to overload that side.
Deulofeu is a magician, no doubt. Ashley Williams discussion of his talents on MOTD2 after the Swansea debacle was very insightful. He talked about his ability to both beat a man and cross and his ability to dig out early crosses of equal threat, almost from between his feet. He didn't even mention his eye for early, well-weighted crosses and tremendous vision.
Aaron Lennon is a player who, in my opinion, never hurt teams enough when he was at Tottenham. He doesn't have the skills or the vision of Deulofeu to the same extent bur his current run in the team is impressive, in both aspects of the game.
When they lose the ball the reaction is different. GD will try to recover it sometimes and will drift in the general direction of our goal, AL always tries to recover the ball and his judgement about when it's a lost cause and sprinting back to defend can't be faulted.
At centre-back? The last time we had good a young centre-back of potentially international quality was when Kevin Ratcliffe was moved from his initial right-back berth to left-side CB. Those of us who remember this lightening-quick legend will, I think, acknowledge that he could certainly play a bit and, crucially, he knew when to do so and when to get rid. I'd swap him for Stones in a heart-beat. Funes Mori doesn't have KR's pace or anything like Stones's ball control. Whilst Stones always looks good and comfortable on the ball, and he has made some excellent saving tackles, he is neither a second Radcliffe nor a second Alan Hansen. He makes too many costly mistakes not out-weighed by much creative input. FM generally knows when to get rid and he has an eye for goal. Defenders who regularly get on the end of chances at set pieces are generally good at defending them too. It's the same skill-set
I accept that JS is young and will improve but positional sense, like vision, is innate. You can improve both but it will never be instinctive.
After all that, well done if you've stuck with it, my first team would be the one which started at Stoke. Don't care which keeper though; I've long argued that keepers look better behind a team that defends like it knows what its doing. Robles has had that for the past 3 games Howard hasn't had it for over 18 months. If pushed I'd go for Robles because he represents the future and he won't develop with the team sitting on the bench. I'd certainly stick with him this Saturday because he'll play against Bournemouth.
And finally ...
Talking to a member of the 86-87 team about defending/attacking in relation to our disjointedness for most of the season. He was diplomatic but said that it was necessary to both defend and attack as a unit. Implication being that we didn't do that. We have been nearer to that ideal in the last three games against pretty poor opposition though.
30 Posted 12/02/2016 at 06:53:24
The fact that he says that he can't say what he really wants is a worry. It hints that he wants to move to a bigger club. Otherwise why couldn't he say it?
The 2 teams that were the most likely to interest him aren't likely to be in the Champs League next season (Man Utd, Chelsea). That gives me hope that he will have another crack at it with us. He won't go to Leicester or Spurs and I can't see Man City being interested as he isn't a Pep type of player. Arsenal are after a top striker, but have never shown interest before. The biggest Euro clubs won't be interested apart from possibly PSG, but the French league is not highly respected and I believe he wants to test himself against the best. Maybe he will stay?
33 Posted 12/02/2016 at 09:44:42
It's all about opinions and that's mine.
34 Posted 12/02/2016 at 10:15:27
As for Rom he must be the best young striker in Europe, surely?
There have already been and will continue to be exciting times ahead with these players and this manager. Patience and a shared belief by players and fans alike needed.
35 Posted 12/02/2016 at 10:20:08
36 Posted 12/02/2016 at 11:02:29
37 Posted 12/02/2016 at 11:05:08
At the moment John Stones reminds me of Rio Ferdinand at a similar age. I remember Ferdinand playing for West Ham against us in February 2000. He was awful that day, getting caught in possession for one of the goals we scored in a 4-0 win. Like Ferdinand I think Stones will eventually come good once he gets his head straight and focuses first and foremost on defending instead of practising to be the new Beckenbauer.
38 Posted 12/02/2016 at 11:16:35
He used to frustrate the hell out of me with his lack of ball control, mixed finishing and seemingly dodgy commitment. I now have no doubt of the latter and the two former have improved significantly.
I truly hope he, Ross and Stonesy see the long term promise the team has and decide to invest another year where we duly reap the benefits. (I can't see Barca coming back in or Gerri).
Say what you will about Roberto - but surely even the most pessimistic Twebber can see that we are potentially on the cusp of something special - and his signings and philosophy have added something to this mix. (No argument - he needs to look at his defensive strategy)!
Add to this the TV windfall and the very real investment interest (if Bill picks the right one for the club - one who get us a new stadium and are not short term speculators) then we have a powerful brew simmering in our cauldron of dreams. Fingers crossed.
39 Posted 12/02/2016 at 11:22:46
I agree, there's this weird negative obsession with players leaving - if you can't enjoy anything in the moment when it comes to football, where does your pleasure come from?
40 Posted 12/02/2016 at 11:37:46
If Lukaku leaves... there is one person to blame: Lukaku.
41 Posted 12/02/2016 at 11:40:47
He'd want to be getting one (from play) at home tomorrow.
42 Posted 12/02/2016 at 11:55:04
"By that I mean closing the game out, making fouls in midfield. Game-management” Lukaku continues. "Be rude to the opponent. Play on the edge a little bit. That's what you have to have, I think. And if we add that to our footballing qualities it will be good. I think players with the most desire to win are the players who are playing almost on the edge"
43 Posted 12/02/2016 at 12:06:31
44 Posted 12/02/2016 at 12:36:34
Kind of makes me think he should go thundering into the box whilst trumpeting out the loudest fart he can muster. Never mind saying "excuse me", "soz", or any other superfluous socially expected apology. Just steam toward the opposition goal with the ominous opening music from The Shining originating from his shorts, sting the nostrils of everyone in the six yard box with the scent of 'suspected shart' and watch the marking go from 'grappling and shirt-pulling' to 'hand wafting and dry heaving'. Job done. Seven to eight extra goals for any striker prepared to give it a go, I reckon.
No need to thank me Rom. Just don't come running over and jump into into the crowd afterwards.
45 Posted 12/02/2016 at 12:50:07
Ã¢â‚¬ËœThere is still room for improvement because I am young and I know it's not perfect. But I am getting where I want to be and I want to keep up the same consistency and to do better next season'
To me, he will only consider leaving if he can walk into and be first choice at the club he's joining, which I don't think he would for Clubs which can afford him. Therefore, I believe he will still be with us next season unless our board chooses to sell him.
I don't believe Niasse is a future replacement for Lukaku. Niasse will play on the left and replace Kone. I can see Cleverly and Niasse alternating for the left side of midfield role, depending on our opposition.
Lastley, Lukaku talks about us being more organised of late, is this due to a change In the managers approach or because certain personnel are back. Possibly a bit of both, but more the later for me. When we have our first choice eleven play I never feel we are disorganised, but when we have injuries and we have people playing out of position, because we don't have like for like replacements in all positions, then we do look a little disorganised.
46 Posted 12/02/2016 at 13:08:45
Every interview I've seen with him, he's come across as mature and intelligent. Definitely not the sort of player who will let his agent tell him which club to sign for and when to move. If Lukaku leaves (and one day he will) it will be when he feels he's accomplished all he can at Everton or when he doesn't feel like he can because of those around him/our position/management. I think he'll give it one more season, as will Stones.
47 Posted 12/02/2016 at 13:25:39
48 Posted 12/02/2016 at 13:42:25
I don't get all this "They should keep their mouths shut" nonsense they are paid footballers who are obliged to give interviews. We would be complaining if, when asked questions, they said nothing and refused to do any interviews!!
50 Posted 12/02/2016 at 14:08:02
He points out his age together with Barkley, Stones and Deulofeu. Fair point. I just hope they all also work hard to improve their most glaring shortcomings (and I've ALWAYS recognised their talents are special) which are in my opinion, respectively; not doing anything like enough to win the ball back, not always remembering that the big boot is sometimes the best option, and mysteriously running out of legs well before the 90 minutes are up.
All four are potential greats; the observations are meant in an entirely positive way to their, the club's, and the fans' benefit.
51 Posted 12/02/2016 at 15:07:30
I don't know what sort of strategies come in to play in the six yard box waiting foe the corner to come over nowadays, but I remember the centre half of my school team shouting comments like "Your willie's hanging out" or poking a wet finger into the center-forward's ear when he was about to jump for the ball.
Seems incredibly childish now but very effective on the day. I suppose it's called ungentlemanly conduct these days.
52 Posted 12/02/2016 at 15:08:11
To suggest otherwise is naive
53 Posted 12/02/2016 at 15:52:48
Isn't that exactly what Vinnie Jones did to Gazza. Poor bugger he was never the same after that!
54 Posted 12/02/2016 at 16:11:59
Comments like this one above make me smile and my brain hurt:
"If only he added anticipation to his repertoire he would have had 10 more goals by now, gets let down by ball watching in the box too often instead of using his acceleration to wrong foot defenders. It's all about opinions and that's mine."
OK...sure. He'd have 26 goals in the league right now which would put him on a pace of 42. Considering the record for the Prem League era is 34, 30 has only been topped 6 times, and 26 would have won the scoring title 13 times I'd say, sure he's young and there are areas of his game he can improve, but let's not criticize Lukaku because he's not the greatest scorer in Prem era history by a mile.
However, it's all about opinions and that's just mine.
I still subscribe to a commenter from Manchester when he "those Toffees are hard to please."
55 Posted 12/02/2016 at 16:16:34
To Max Murphy, who said "If Lukaku leaves there is one person to blame: Roberto Martinez".... I would point that Martinez is the one person to CREDIT for Rom being here in the first place, and that if he stays, Roberto should get all the credit for that too, because 65 would be a hellacious number to turn down.
Gotta be fair, mate.
56 Posted 12/02/2016 at 16:27:47
And given his commitment to personal improvement, I have no doubt that the next time he sees one of his mates pull a foot back for a cross, he'll be more likely to immediately crash for the far post.
57 Posted 12/02/2016 at 16:40:52
58 Posted 12/02/2016 at 20:26:12
59 Posted 12/02/2016 at 21:50:50
I hope he gets 4 tomorrow but I just don't join in with the 'Next Drogba' type superlatives.
60 Posted 12/02/2016 at 23:21:28
I'll go straight to the Lukaku/Drogba comparison which I have never made. Lukaku is ahead of Drogba's goal scoring in the Premier League. Lukaku has 41 goals in 92 appearances while Drogba had 104 in 254. Of course the real test will be if Rom can lead a line on a great team and win something big.
I agree with you two that Lukaku is not perfect and can improve just as every footballer in the world can improve. Despite that, Rom is set up to be one of the all-time great Premier League strikers.
63 Posted 13/02/2016 at 08:25:39
64 Posted 13/02/2016 at 19:46:44
A few posts up there is talk of anticipation.... I call it not being brave enough to get in amongst centre halves who fancy a scrap. 3 or 4 balls fired across the box.
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