Signing Nicolas Anelka is a risk, and if West Brom think he is a direct replacement for Romelu Lukaku, they could be in trouble

The former Chelsea striker has returned to the Premier League, but is far from the peak of his powers

Romelu Lukaku scored 17 Premier League goals for West Bromwich Albion last season. He started 20 games and came on as substitute in another 17. It is a phenomenal scoring record for a 20-year-old in his first full season, not to mention at a temporary club with aspirations largely to stay in the division.

The problem with borrowing people's good stuff is that they have the right to ask for it back.

Lukaku is Chelsea's and they took their emerging talent home.

That leaves West Bromwich Albion and Steve Clarke with an almighty gap to fill. Only five players scored more goals in the Premier League last season than the Belgian international; Robin van Persie, Luis Suarez, Gareth Bale, Christian Benteke and Michu. That places his achievements in some form of context. West Bromwich Albion's second top goalscorer was Shane Long with eight. Clarke's job in his second season as a manager looks a lot more difficult.

The solution for West Brom has been to shop once more in the bargain basement of the summer transfer window. Last season came goals for free so the remit is the same; get goals, pay nothing.

Enter Nicolas Anelka, back for a sixth time in English football, at the age of 34.

"We are missing a bit of firepower from last year, and to kick off with the signing of Nicolas at the start of the summer is a great boost for everyone at the club," said Clarke. "The more quality players you can bring to the club the better, and no-one can question Nicolas' quality."

That is true. Real Madrid, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool sit on Anelka's CV. He knows the English game inside out. Anelka has scored more than 100 Premier League goals. His name alone ensures defenders switch on.

But, and it is a big but, not since the 2008-2009 season has there been anything to match the output of Lukaku. Back then, Anelka scored 19 Premier League goals from 34 starts and three appearances as a substitute. That is more than four years ago. The season after came 11 Premier League goals, a still decent return but since then there has been a decline; six goals in 2010-11, one in half a season in 2011, an unsuccessful spell with Shanghai Shenhua (three league goals) and nothing came at Juventus.

West Bromwich Albion have taken a major gamble but there is nothing new in that statement; more that the desire for another bargain may have blinded them to look with great scrutiny at Anelka's recent career.

Greater scrutiny shows a decline in West Bromwich Albion's own form towards the end of the season. In the final nine Premier League games they won once. In the preceding eight games to that freakish five-all draw with already crowned Manchester United, they had scored just eight goals. To that they have lost their best player and signed a 34-year-old with no form.

Anelka has the whiff of a bit-part player, someone to emerge as an impact substitute, or to pass on his knowledge to younger players at the club. Asking any more, and failing to replace Lukaku properly, could spell trouble.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Twelve of the winning bidders will each host three group matches
football
Life and Style
Jack Cooksey goes for the grand unveiling - moments before dropping his new iPhone 6 on the floor
iphone launch
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week