Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admits his club stood no chance of signing Romelu Lukaku after he joined Chelsea in 2011. The 23-year-old swapped Anderlecht for West London five years ago and has gone to become a revelation in the Premier League, having previously been on the radar of the French coach.
Lukaku has scored 69 goals in 163 appearances in the English top-flight, where he has represented The Blues, West Bromwich Albion and Everton, for whom he scored twice in the 3-2 loss at Watford. The Belgium international was linked with a move away from Goodison Park in the summer yet has remained on Merseyside.
During the summer, Lukaku was linked with a £50m move to Arsenal (according to Italian journalist Emanuele Giulianelli) and Wenger has now delivered a coy response to question regarding his interest. The Emirates boss claims he did track the forward at the start of his career, but gave up attempting to luring him once he moved to Chelsea.
"I knew him when he was in Belgium at Anderlecht," he told reporters at a pre-match press conference to preview Arsenal's trip to Everton. "He came very early to Chelsea and once a player is at a big club for us it is difficult to get him."
Upon completing his £18m move to Chelsea Lukaku failed to make an impression under Andre Villas-Boas, and following successive loan moves secured a permanent switch to Everton three years later. He will line up against Arsenal on Tuesday hoping to improve on the Toffees' recent run of one win in 10.
Meanwhile, Wenger has clarified his intent to retain winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain amid contrasting reports regarding his future at Arsenal. The Daily Mirror understood the club were yet to open talks over a new deal with the England international, who has 18 months to run on his current deal – but Wenger seemingly wants him to remain at the club.
"I want Oxlade-Chamberlain to stay at the club," he added. "I bought him at a young age. I think he is developing well. This season he is making steps and moving forward and overall when you have invested so much time and work and the player has as well and he's integrated and has the qualities we want him to have. Overall I want him to stay.
"Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's career, much like Theo Walcott's career, has been stopped many times by injury. Many, many setbacks. They play in positions where injuries are many, many times higher and today you need to defend and be dangerous going forward.
"You need to find the level of a good balance and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is much more efficient going forward. He provided a good final ball for Ozil on Saturday and he has himself scored goals. It is a position where the physical demands are the most important."