Everton suffered a devastating 2-1 FA Cup semi-final defeat against Manchester United on Saturday, as French international Anthony Martial scored a 92nd winner to send the Red Devils through to next month’s final.
In truth the side from Merseyside produced a lacklustre display in the first half, but came out in the second half with a far better sense of purpose.
In fact the Toffees could have won the game with a bit of lucky and better finishing from record-signing Romelu Lukaku.
Looked low on confidence
For much of the season Lukaku has looked very good in front of goal, not always taking his chances, but a tally of 18 Premier League goals this season is pretty impressive.
In recent weeks the Belgian has struggled to hit the back of the net and against United the 22-year-old had eight attempts on the United goal, without scoring. The best of Lukaku’s chances came from the penalty spot.
His telegraphed spot-kick was brilliantly saved by David de Gea, but most Everton fans were asking why Lukaku is taking penalty kicks in the first place? Leighton Baines is an expert penalty taker and has missed only one in his career, ironically against United and De Gea.
For such a talented player Lukaku has looked bereft of confidence for the past month or so and his semi-final display summed-up his efforts. ‘He could have played for a month and still probably wouldn’t have score’ was the analyst of one Toffees fan after the game.
Wants to move to a Champions League club
Romelu Lukaku has not helped himself by recently declaring he wants to move to a team playing Champions League football in the near future. Unfortunately for the striker if anybody had seen him play in the last six matches or so, no self-respecting club playing in the Champions League would touch him with a barge pole.
Lukaku has never hidden his ambition and the hope was that his presence in the Everton attack would propel Everton to where he wanted to play. To be fair for much of the campaign the Toffees forward players have done their job pretty well and poor defending has cost the Merseysiders.
If the defence would have played as well as Lukaku for much of the season, Everton would not be in the bottom half of the Premier League table.
Ambition is good, but at 22-years-old there is plenty of time for Lukaku to play for a team in the Champions League. He feels he is ready, but it is just a matter of whether clubs in the Champions League will be prepared to pay the mooted £50-60million asking price on his head.
Lukaku is currently in the race for PFA Young Player of the Year, but is a major outsider at odds of 40/1 to claim the award. The fact Tottenham’s young midfielder Dele Alli is so far ahead of him in the betting suggests that Lukaku still has work to do to become the great player he believes he is already
Big summer ahead for Everton
This summer is a big one for Everton, as the likes of Lukaku, England centre-back John Stones and even attacking midfielder Ross Barkley are all being linked with big money moves.
One of the most important factors for the Toffees this summer is whether boss Roberto Martinez remains in charge at Goodison Park. The Spaniard has been under-fire for the Toffees poor Premier League position this season and the majority of Everton fans seem in favour of the club changing managers.
New majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri has promised that there will be funds available to the manager this summer to strengthen the squad. If the Toffees show some ambition then maybe Lukaku will stay at the club.
However he seems itching to test himself at the highest level. The question would be is he ready for the higher level? Many fans watching Lukaku in recent games will say not at the moment.
Romelu Lukaku does not belong at a bottom half team, but most knowledgeable fans would say that Everton are in a false position and that poor tactics and defensive mistakes have cost the Toffees dearly this season.
Whether Lukaku is plying his trade at Goodison Park next season or not, Everton fans will always remember his poor showing against United and his comments about moving to a Champions League club.
Romelu Lukaku does have undoubted talent, but as his showing against United illustrated maybe he is not yet the complete player he believes he is and should continue to develop at Everton for another season at least.
Is Romelu Lukaku good enough for a Champions League club?