Alvaro Morata and Romelu Lukaku face each other for Chelsea and Manchester United on Sunday having seen their sensational starts to the season for their new clubs evaporate — both go into the Stamford Bridge clash without a goal since September.
The two strikers were central to one of the transfer sagas of the summer, with United ditching their interest in signing Morata from Real Madrid to hijack Chelsea’s attempt to take Lukaku back to the club from Everton.
And in the opening weeks of the season, it appeared that both Chelsea and United had hit the jackpot with their purchases, with Morata scoring seven goals in his first eight games in all competitions for Antonio Conte’s team and Lukaku hitting 11 in 10 outings for Jose Mourinho’s side.
But since the end of September, the goals have dried up and both have seen their momentum halted by injuries, which has led to a loss of form.
In Morata’s case, the Spaniard has raised doubts over his long-term commitment to Chelsea by claiming in the Italian media earlier this week — before hastily backtracking in a Champions League news conference in Rome the following day — that he cannot envisage a length stay in London.
Lukaku, meanwhile, find himself at the centre of a public spat between Mourinho and the United supporters, with the Old Trafford manager defending the Belgium forward against what he perceives to be a lack of backing for the player.
A goal for either Morata or Lukaku would help change the landscape, but as the stats show, it is not just in front of goal that two of the most expensive strikers in the world have been falling short.
Each player has seen their all-round contribution dip during the barren month of October, so will November be any different unless they get their on-field numbers back to the levels of early season?
In terms of shots, Morata managed an average of 3.4 per game during his run of seven goals in eight matches. In the six games since, his shot rate has dropped to 1.8 per game.
When it comes to shots on target, Morata has gone from 1.3 per game during his goal run to 0.7 over the six matches he has failed to hit the back of the net.
Lukaku’s drop has been even more noticeable, with the United striker having an average of 4.2 shots per game during his 10-match scoring streak before dropping 1.8 in his last six games.
His shots on target rate has also dropped from 2.4 per game to 0.7, so it is clear to see why both Morata and Lukaku are finding it difficult to score — neither of them are shooting on goal enough.
Their work rate has also declined, with Morata dropping from an average of 30.4 touches per game to 25.3 during his goalless run.
Lukaku’s numbers show a similar drop, going from 34.7 touches per game to 29.5.
In the penalty area, it is the same story. Morata has gone from 5.1 to 3.7 touches per game; Lukaku’s contribution has dropped by more than half from 5.9 penalty area touches to 2.8 — a stat perhaps backing up the frustrations of some United fans who believe that he does not contribute enough when not scoring.
Both men are also creating fewer chances — 1.0 to 0.7 per game for Morata; 1.6 to 1.2 for Lukaku.
In defence of both strikers, the opposition faced by Chelsea and United during their goalless six games has been generally stronger than in the early weeks of the season.
Chelsea faced Manchester City and Roma twice during that run, failing to win any of those three fixtures, while United have taken on Liverpool and Tottenham — scoring just once in 180 minutes against their two top-six rivals.
But ultimately, neither Morata nor Lukaku were signed by their clubs to endure long runs without scoring.
They are the men tasked with delivering match-winning strikes in the tightest of games and both know that doing so on Sunday would be the perfect way to silence the critics.
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_