Nkunku’s arrival bolsters Chelsea’s fruitful £30m transfer strategy in the Premier League
There was so much excitement surrounding Nicolas Jackson when he first put on a Chelsea shirt during pre-season in the United States. A lot of Blues supporters had never seen the 22-year-old striker kick a ball before and their desperate need for an accomplished No.9 saw a lot of expectation immediately fall on his shoulders.
Jackson was scoring for fun in pre-season, where he linked up well with the now-injured Christopher Nkunku. And Chelsea supporters were backing the Senegal international for a breakthrough debut season in the Premier League.
However, after a promising performance against Liverpool, but no goal, and a similar display versus West Ham United a week later; there were already questions being asked over whether Jackson is the right man to take on such responsibility at Stamford Bridge. Luton Town came to west London the following week, though, and it was a big moment for Jackson.
He tapped in Raheem Sterling’s cross to ensure the first three points of the Mauricio Pochettino era at Chelsea over the newly-promoted Hatters. “We knew Nicolas Jackson’s quality when we signed him, we saw that before,” Pochettino said on his new striker to Sky Sports.
“It is not that we ask him to run and press the ball, he is quality in the way he recovers the ball, but he can also finish. It is only a matter of time, once he settles into the Premier League, he will show it more.
“Nicolas Jackson has top quality. I have no doubt that he can become one of the greatest strikers in the Premier League.”
After his goal against Luton, it was a while before Jackson found himself back on the score sheet for Chelsea. Four Premier League games passed before the striker once again found himself in the goals; after he scored in the Blues’ comfortable win away at Burnley.
Then another three matches came and went before what turned out to be a huge night for Jackson personally away at Tottenham. Spurs went down to nine men early in the second-half following red cards to Cristian Romero and Destiny Udogie – and, rather surprisingly, Ange Postecoglou decided to keep his side’s high line to try and catch the visitors out in north London, leaving so much space in behind the makeshift Tottenham defence.
Jackson capitalised on this. The Senegalese striker netted a late hat-trick to clinch all three points for Chelsea over their local rivals and put him on five goals in the Premier League season.
He clearly took that confidence into the next game where he put in a strong performance in an eight-goal stalemate with Manchester City at Stamford Bridge. Jackson scored Chelsea’s third goal of the evening after showing brilliant striker instinct to put the ball past Ederson after a Conor Gallagher shot was parried.
The strike put Jackson onto six for the season in the top-flight and seven in all competitions. It sees Jackson joint-sixth in terms of the leading goal scorers in the Premier League, with only Erling Haaland, Mohamed Salah, Jarrod Bowen, Son Heung-min and Callum Wilson scoring more than him this term.
When looking at Chelsea this season and comparing it to the same point last term, Jackson can somewhat be seen as the difference in the improvement. The Blues have scored four more goals than at this point last campaign (12 games in), with Jackson netting six this term.
Chelsea scored 17 goals 12 games into the 2022/23 season, while they currently sit on 21 goals this term. Albeit they sit in a worst position in the Premier League table, but Pochettino has at least managed to improve the Blues’ goal scoring output.
That, too, will surely only improve when Nkunku is back from his knee injury. The France international is yet to feature for Chelsea competitively since making the £52million move from RB Leipzig over the summer but the attacker is close to returning to action.
Nkunku linked up well with Jackson during the pre-season tour of America. The Frenchman played almost as a second striker to Jackson out in the States and it will be interesting to see if that is the position Pochettino uses him in when he is fit and firing again.