In the 2022/23 Premier League season, Chelsea’s attacking prowess was nothing short of embarrassing. Despite boasting a talented attacking lineup, the Blues struggled with cluelessness and wastefulness in front of goal. With only 38 goals in 38 games, Chelsea ranked among the lowest-scoring teams in the top-flight, alongside Everton, Southampton, Bournemouth, and Wolves.
This offensive drought raised concerns, especially considering the hefty investments made by Chelsea’s new American owners in acquiring talented attackers like Mykhaylo Mudryk, Raheem Sterling, Noni Madueke, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Joao Felix. The team possessed an abundance of attacking riches, including the likes of Mason Mount, Kai Havertz, Christian Pulisic, and Hakim Ziyech. Change was necessary, and Chelsea’s recruitment team, led by new manager Mauricio Pochettino, took on the responsibility of bolstering the team’s attacking output.
In the off-season of 2023, Christopher Nkunku was announced as Chelsea’s new signing, although the deal had already been agreed upon earlier. Pochettino also orchestrated a summer exodus of several attackers, with Mason Mount, Kai Havertz, Pulisic, and Aubameyang all departing. Romelu Lukaku and Hakim Ziyech also found themselves out of the Argentine’s plans.
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Nkunku, a brilliant player and finisher, is not necessarily a typical number 9 striker. Recognizing this, Pochettino made a bargain signing, bringing in Senegal striker Nicolas Jackson from Villarreal for $35 million.
Both Nkunku and Jackson have made an instant impact for Chelsea in pre-season matches. In the limited minutes they’ve played together, their chemistry has been reminiscent of the days of Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka under Carlo Ancelotti’s Premier League-winning side.
Now the question arises: How will both forwards fit into the same starting lineup, and will it benefit Chelsea?
Chelsea’s Dilemma at Attacking Midfield
While Chelsea boasts a talented squad, they lack an orthodox attacking midfielder. Mount and Havertz typically filled that role, but with their departures, Pochettino has limited options in that position. Connor Gallagher and Carney Chukwuemeka can play there, but Gallagher is a target for West Ham and Chelsea is likely to sell him, while Chukwuemeka is expected to be primarily used in a deeper role. Pochettino faces a real dilemma here.
However, in the pre-season match against Newcastle, Pochettino’s decision to pair Jackson and Nkunku up front proved to be a stroke of genius as they tore through the Magpies’ defense. Newcastle boasted one of the best defensive records in the league, tied with Manchester City. If Nkunku and Jackson can replicate their performance against Eddie Howe’s side, the Premier League will struggle to contain them.
The Starting Lineup Puzzle
Both Nicolas Jackson and Nkunku have distinct playing styles, but they share similarities in their clinical finishing ability, penchant for dropping deep to link play, and their ease at dribbling past defenders. Pochettino typically sets up his team in a 4-2-3-1 formation, and these two forwards seamlessly fit into this system. Nkunku can slot into the number 10 spot, while Jackson takes up the number 9 position.
They are likely to interchange positions throughout the game, exploiting the confusion caused for defenders without disrupting the tactical setup of the team.
Early Signs of Promise
The early signs from this dynamic duo have been overwhelmingly positive. Whether starting separately or together, Nkunku and Jackson have showcased their immense potential and could establish themselves as the deadliest partnership in English football. With the likes of Mudryk and Madueke complementing their attacking force, Chelsea’s offense promises to be a thrilling spectacle. After more than a decade of longing for a formidable strike force, Chelsea fans can finally rejoice in having not one but two outstanding forwards leading their attack this season.
The arrival of Nkunku and Jackson has injected a new sense of excitement and optimism into the Chelsea fanbase. For years, they have yearned for a lethal strike partnership that can consistently deliver goals and spearhead the team’s attack. With the duo’s impressive performances in pre-season, there is a genuine belief that this long-awaited dream may finally be realized.
Nkunku, with his technical ability, vision, and goal-scoring prowess, has already shown glimpses of his potential to be a game-changer. His ability to create chances for himself and his teammates, combined with his clinical finishing, makes him a nightmare for defenders to handle. His versatility allows him to play in various attacking positions, providing Pochettino with the flexibility to adapt his tactics and formations.
On the other hand, Jackson brings a different dimension to Chelsea’s attack. His physicality, aerial prowess, and intelligent movement make him a constant threat in the penalty area. His ability to hold up the ball and bring others into play adds an extra dimension to Chelsea’s attacking play. Jackson’s partnership with Nkunku has the potential to create a lethal combination that can unlock even the most stubborn defenses.
The addition of Mudryk and Madueke further enhances Chelsea’s attacking options. Mudryk, with his pace and directness, can stretch defenses and create space for Nkunku and Jackson to exploit. Madueke, with his trickery and flair, brings creativity and unpredictability to the team. The combination of these talented attackers, along with the supporting cast of Ziyech, Sterling, and Felix, gives Chelsea a formidable attacking arsenal.
However, it is important to temper expectations and acknowledge that success is not guaranteed. The Premier League is a highly competitive and physically demanding league, and it often takes time for new signings to fully adapt and settle. Nkunku and Jackson will face challenges and will need time to build chemistry and understanding on the pitch.
Additionally, Pochettino will need to find the right balance in his team and ensure that the attacking prowess does not come at the expense of defensive solidity. It will be crucial for the midfield and defense to provide a solid foundation and support the attacking players.
Nevertheless, the early signs are promising, and Chelsea fans have every reason to be excited about the potential of Nkunku and Jackson. If they can continue to perform at a high level and develop a strong understanding, they have the potential to become one of the most feared strike partnerships in the history of the English top-flight. With their presence, Chelsea’s attack has been revitalized, and the Stamford Bridge faithful can finally look forward to a season filled with goals and excitement.