LONDON: Romelu Lukaku enjoyed a dream start to his second spell with Chelsea. Belgium’s 64-goal record marksman marked his return to the Premier League with the early goal which propelled the Blues to a 2-0 derby win over Arsenal in north London.

Manager Thomas Tuchel said: “”I was very happy with the way he has integrated into the group. He’s a smart guy and talks to everybody – very friendly, very humble and very competitive. You cannot start better than with a goal and he assisted with some half chances.

“In the first half we lacked a bit of sharpness. We had had a long training week with double sessions so I felt we were a bit leggy. In the second half we overcame some difficult moments at the start. We deserved to win but there are still some things to improve.”

Romelu Lukaku: back with style

Arsenal, by contrast, are now joint bottom of the Premier League. They fielded a weakened team because of injuries, illness and transfer issues but pressure is building on manager Mikel Arteta.

They lost their opening game at Brentford and a third defeat, next weekend against his mentor Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, will put his job in danger.

The derby had come too early for Arsenal, still in the midst of transfer-market development, injuries and illness.

Martin Odegaard was absent from midfield after completion of his permanent transfer from Real Madrid had been delayed by a work permit issue while captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was fit enough only for a place on the bench. Covid quarantine ruled out Alexandre Lacazette and new central defender Ben White.

Lukaku wasted no time paying off his fee: his 114th Premier League goal arrived in the 15th minute in Chelsea’s first serious attack.

He held off Arsenal’s defenders, laid the ball back to Mateo Kovacic and then stabbed home Reece James’s right-wing cross from close range. Leno reached his fingers to the cross but not enough to deflect it away from Lukaku.

The Belgian could have scored again 10 minutes later but this time James turned the ball back to Mount rather than aiming for the unmarked Lukaku at the far post. He continued to create problems and a foul on him earned a yellow card for Pablo Mari.

Arsenal outplayed

James did not have to wait long for a reward of his own. He struck Chelsea’s second goal in the 35th minute after a left-wing move between Havertz and Mount.

Arsenal tried to recover. Emile Smith Rowe miss a kick in front of goal, Nicolas Pepe had a penalty appeal rejected and a dangerous raid by Gabriel Martinelli was foiled by Antonio Rudiger.

Arsenal continued to press after the interval. Edouard Mendy pushed a shot from Bukayo Saka over the bar and Rob Holding headed wide. Arsenal maintained the attacking effort by sending on Aubameyang who immediately had a shot saved.

The Gunners’ began to fade and Chelsea regained control in midfield. Lukaku was close to a second goal only for Leno to push his header against the crossbar.

He said: “We played really well, we could have scored more. This team are very talented. They’re the European champions and want to keep winning so we have to keep fighting and working hard and delivering performances like this.”