Chelsea’s attacking output last season in the 2022/23 Premier League was nothing but embarrassing. It wasn’t down to reasons because they lacked quality in the attacking department, but more of cluelessness and wastefulness in front of goal and in the final third. While defensively they still were a very good side to play against, it was the complete opposite on the other end of the pitch.
To put it into context, Chelsea scored 38 goals last season in 38 games and only four other teams in the top-flight scored less than the Blues. Two of them battled for avoiding relegation – Everton and Southampton, while the other two; Bournemouth and Wolves, clearly did not have the attacking pool that the Stamford Bridge outfit had.
This was, even more, a cause for concern considering Todd Boehly had already splashed millions on new players. Mykhaylo Mudryk, Raheem Sterling, Noni Madueke, Aubameyang, and Joao Felix were the attackers signed by Chelsea’s new American owners.
To make matters worse, The Blues already had an embarrassment of riches when it came to their attack, which had the likes of Mount, Havertz, Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech. Something had to change and the Blues’ recruitment team along with new manager Mauricio Pochettino took the responsibility of improving the attacking output for the next season, both in terms of numbers and personnel.
Christopher Nkunku was announced in the off-season of 2023, but in truth, a deal was already agreed for the French star to join this summer. Pochettino also sold many of his attackers this summer which was part of their summer window exodus. Mason Mount, Kai Havertz, Pulisic and Aubameyang have all left, while Romelu Lukaku and Hakim Ziyech are also not in the Argentine’s plans.
While Nkunku is a brilliant player and finisher, he isn’t exactly what you call a typical number 9. Poch knew this and decided to bring in Senegal striker Nicolas Jackson from Villarreal for a bargain of $35m.
Both these new forwards have hit the ground running for Chelsea in the pre-season. While Poch has only started the two of them together in just a single game, they showed a chemistry seen like none other since the days of Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka under Ancelotti’s Premier League winning side.
But how do both these forwards fit in the same starting lineup and is it going to do Chelsea any good? Here’s how it should turn out!
Do both of them start in tandem?
Chelsea and Pochettino have got a talented squad. However, one thing they do not technically have is an orthodox attacking midfielder.
Positionally, Mount and Havertz occupied that role for the Blues. But with their departures, the Argentine manager does not of many options. Connor Gallagher and Carney Chukwuemeka play that position but with the former a target for West Ham and Chelsea likely to sell, and the latter to be primarily used in a deeper position, Pochettino has a real dilemma here.
But as seen in the pre-season match against Newcastle, playing Jackson and Nkunku as a strike duo worked like a charm for the Blues as they wreaked havoc on the Magpies’ defence. The Toons had the joint-best defensive record in the division alongside Manchester City. And if Nkunku and Jackson can do what they did to Eddie Howe’s defence in Atalanta, the Premier League isn’t ready for this duo.
To answer the question of whether or not both of them start in the same playing 11, it’s a no-brainer for Poch.
How will Nkunku and Nicolas Jackson fit in the starting lineup?
Both Nicolas Jackson and Nkunku have different playing styles. But a few things that are common between these two, is that both of them are clinical finishers, like to fall deep and link play, and enjoy dribbling past defenders with ease.
Mauricio Pochettino usually shapes his team up in a 4-2-3-1 formation and these two fit seamlessly in this setup. Nkunku can take up the number 10 spot while Jackson occupies the number 9 position.
They will also likely swap places at regular intervals to gain an advantage over their opponents without tactically disturbing the setup of the team.
Signs so far
The signs so far have been positive from the duo. Nkunku and Jackson have performed brilliantly when started separately or together and have the potential to become the deadliest duo the English top-flight has ever seen.
Fans have already seen what they can do and with exciting attackers around them like Mudryk and Madueke, things might get even more interesting. What all Chelsea fans can agree upon here is that they have not one but two great forwards to spearhead their attack this season, something the Stamford Bridge faithful have been craving for more than a decade.