Nkunku’s compelling motive to join Chelsea intensifies with Pochettino’s strategic blueprint
Chelsea forward Christopher Nkunku is expected to make his long-awaited return after this month’s international break. The France international is yet to make his competitive debut for his new club since signing from RB Leipzig for £52million.
Having shown glimpses of why the Blues purchased the Bundesliga goalscorer in pre-season, Nkunku sustained a knee injury in Chicago during pre-season. His absence has been missed in the final third, with only the last two games – against Tottenham and Manchester City – seeing Chelsea be a serious threat in attack.
Prior to last week’s 4-4 thriller with City, Mauricio Pochettino admitted the forward could be available sooner rather than later, sparking excitement among supporters. “I had a conversation with Christopher and he said to me he wanted to be involved after the international break, against Newcastle,” he said.
“I asked yesterday and he wasn’t as sure, so I told him he is a liar! In a good way, though. I think he’s close and he is doing really well. We are so happy with him in the way that he is doing his recovery. He is very professional.”
After scoring 70 times and assisting a further 56 for Leipzig, Nkunku’s goal record speaks for itself. And despite Nicolas Jackson scoring four goals in his last two games, the return of Nkunku will make Chelsea a bigger threat for the second half of the season.
Capable of playing behind the centre-forward or leading the line himself, Nkunku is set to play a key role in Pochettino’s side. That’s according to French football expert Jonathan Johnson, who claims the 26-year-old has a big reason to hit the ground running in west London.
Nkunku hasn’t featured for the France national team since June. The emergence of Randal Kolo Muani means his place in the summer’s Euro 2024 squad could be jeopardy – with Antoine Griezmann, Olivier Giroud, Kylian Mbappe and Marcus Thuram currently ahead of him.
However, if he is to be named in Didier Deschamps’ squad for Germany, the forward will need to be successful in London. “Regardless of Chelsea’s upturn in form lately, Nkunku will be a starter for Mauricio Pochettino once he is fully fit,” Johnson told CaughtOffside.
“It might take some time for the France international to get back to his best, but he will be keen to make up for lost time and has his spot with Les Bleus to fight for as well.
“I suspect that he will have a fairly immediate impact in front of goal as Chelsea seek to make a push for a European qualification spot over the second half the season. The Blues need to be wary of recurring injury issues with their summer signing, but he undoubtedly has the quality to improve this team once he finally returns to action.
“Of course, we’ve seen real improvement from Nicolas Jackson of late, so that might have led some to question if Nkunku would get straight back into the team, but it’s important to remember how eager Chelsea were to get this deal done, and wrapped up early last year, so I’m confident he remains a key part of Pochettino’s project.”