Social distancing in the Arsenal defense was too inviting for Romelu Lukaku.
Only 15 minutes into his second debut for Chelsea, Lukaku was gifted the space to run and sweep in the goal he’d waited almost a decade to score.
It was an opener -- in a 2-0 win over Arsenal in the Premier League on Sunday — that exemplified the hold-up play, timing on the ball and technique Lukaku has finessed in his time away from Chelsea.
How to assess his return to the Chelsea jersey?
“Dominant,” the 28-year-old striker responded.
Never before in its history has Arsenal opened a league campaign with two losses without scoring.
Even worse for Arsenal, the latest defeat came with pandemic capacity restrictions lifted at the Emirates Stadium for the first time in almost 18 months.
There was a lot for home fans to jeer their own side for — and boo they did — and so much to admire from the visitors from west London who so unexpectedly won the Champions League last season.
Even more terrifying for Chelsea’s opponents is having Lukaku to supplement an attack previously lacking a focal point with a scoring touch.
That was seen quickly in north London.
Lukaku held off center back Pablo Mari before laying the ball off to Mateo Kovacic. As the ball was sprayed out to James on the right flank, Lukaku powered his way into the penalty area — brushing aside Mari with ease — to find the pocket of space to receive the pass centrally and tap in past goalkeeper Bernd Leno.
“I wanted to add something different to the team and hopefully I did,” Lukaku said. “The team adapted really well. They helped me a lot. They made life very comfortable for me. So I wasn’t stressed when I came into the game. I was very focused.”
Fortressed by James firing in a goal for himself in the 35th minute after being teed up by Mason Mount, Chelsea and Lukaku cruised to a second straight win.