Arsenal’s miserable start to the Premier League season could get even worse as Chelsea unleash record signing Romelu Lukaku for his debut on Sunday, while Liverpool and Manchester United look to build on a promising start to their title challenge.
Lukaku has returned to Stamford Bridge, seven years after his first spell at Chelsea came to an end, for a £97 million fee ($133 million) after leading Inter Milan to the Serie A title last season.
The Blues believe the Belgian striker can be the final weapon needed to turn a squad that already won the Champions League last season into Premier League title contenders.
Lukaku is already in the top 20 all-time Premier League goalscorers with 113 to his name for West Brom, Everton and Manchester United.
But after an unhappy end to his time at United, the 28-year-old’s game went to new levels in two seasons in Italy.
“I think I’ve learned much more about myself, setting higher standards for myself,” said Lukaku on what his changed in his two years since leaving the Premier League.
“As a player I’ve become more complete because the game in Italy is tighter spaces, much more technical and tactical, which helped me a lot.”
Arsenal could also have two new recruits registered in time for Sunday with goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale and midfielder Martin Odegaard set to join the Gunners.
Those two signings would take Arsenal’s spending for the transfer window above Chelsea’s after the arrivals of £50 million defender Ben White, Albert Sambi Lokonga and Nuno Tavares.
That level of investment has come as a surprise with Arsenal facing up to a fifth consecutive season without the riches of Champions League football.
Manager Mikel Arteta is therefore under pressure to turn that backing into results after a 2-0 defeat to newly-promoted Brentford to open the new season.
After the visit of the European champions, Arsenal travel to Manchester City next weekend and face heading into the September international break without a single point from their opening three games unless they can spring a surprise.
Arsenal’s spending ups pressure on Arteta to deliver
Facing up to a first season in 25 years without European football, Arsenal were expected to feel the economic crunch caused by the coronavirus pandemic but have spent more money on new players that any other Premier League club in the transfer window to date.
The arrival of Norwegian midfielder Martin Odegaard from Real Madrid and imminent signing of Aaron Ramsdale as competition for the role as number one goalkeeper has taken the Gunners outlay to a reported £130 million ($178 million).
In both Arteta’s first two seasons in charge, Arsenal have finished eighth in the Premier League, their worst performances since 1995.
A club that between 1998 and 2016 enjoyed 19 consecutive campaigns in the Champions League under Arsene Wenger has now been deprived of the prestige and riches of Europe’s top club competition for five years.
Their start to the new season has done little to offer hope that run will be ended come May as they opened the Premier League campaign with a 2-0 defeat to newly-promoted Brentford.
Arteta bemoaned the fact that match was not postponed on Friday after four positive coronavirus cases robbed him of strikers Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette.
But the Spaniard needs a quick response ahead of Sunday’s visit of European champions Chelsea and a trip to Manchester City next weekend if his side are to avoid going into the September international break without a point.
“I love challenges and we have a challenge,” said Arteta. “Let’s just embrace it and do the best that we can every single day to try to create the best possible atmosphere around this place.”
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