Mykhaylo Mudryk, right, of Chelsea with Charlie Webster after his second-half goal in the pre-season friendly match against Brighton & Hove Albion at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia – Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC
Chelsea’s pre-season preparations continued with a thrilling 4-3 victory over Brighton in the United States, with new signings Christopher Nkunku and Nicolas Jackson both finding the net for Mauricio Pochettino’s side.
The two forwards, who cost a combined fee of around £85 million, were joined on the scoresheet by Conor Gallagher and Mykhailo Mudryk, who struck his first goal for Chelsea since his £89 million move from Shakhtar Donetsk in January.
The game was level at 1-1 in the second half when Jan Paul van Hecke, the Brighton centre-back, was sent off after receiving a second yellow card. Brighton had earlier scored through Danny Welbeck, and Roberto De Zerbi’s side added two late goals through record signing Joao Pedro and striker Deniz Undav.
Here are the key talking points from the match in Philadelphia.
Mudryk’s moment of class
Brentford wanted to make him their record signing. Then Arsenal tried to do the same. De Zerbi thinks he has the potential to one day win the Ballon d’Or. They can’t all be wrong, and it has always felt like a matter of time before Mudryk started to show why Chelsea were willing to pay up to £89 million for his services.
In this victory over Brighton, Mudryk finally produced a moment of genuine quality in a blue shirt. His second-half goal was a strike of the highest order, and a touch of class befitting a player who is so highly-rated by so many within the game.
Chelsea’s Mykhailo Mudryk controls the ball during the second half – Chris Szagola/AP
Receiving the ball on the left wing, Mudryk suddenly burst into top gear. Surging infield, he exchanged two passes with Jackson, one of which was a measured chip over an opposition defender, before smashing the bouncing ball into the corner from the edge of the box.
Mudryk played for Ukraine at the European Under-21 Championships earlier this summer in an attempt to recapture his best form in time for next season. On the evidence of this first appearance for Pochettino, it was a wise move. The question now is whether this was just a flicker of brilliance, or the start of something sustained.
Jackson the creative force
Chelsea signed Jackson to be a No 9 who can lead the line and stretch defences. He had an impressive season in front of goal for Villarreal last year, scoring 12 times in La Liga, and the hope at Stamford Bridge has been that he could be a cold-blooded finisher in the penalty box.
After two pre-season friendly matches, though, it has already become clear that there is more to Jackson’s game than speed and finishing. On this early evidence, the Senegal forward can also serve as a creative facilitator for his new team.
Nicolas Jackson, left, kicks the ball in for a goal as Brighton’s Jason Steele defends – Chris Szagola/AP
In two appearances for Chelsea, Jackson already has three assists to his name. They have been varied, too, with those three assists stemming from a driving run, a delicate flick and an aggressive challenge to win the ball in the Brighton penalty box here in Philadelphia.
Jackson, who cost around £30 million, also scored a goal of his own after he ran behind the Brighton defence and lifted a confident finish into the top corner. Nkunku also scored again for Chelsea — he has two goals in two pre-season games — but the £52 million man is currently being outshone by the cheaper addition to Chelsea’s frontline.
Pedro’s early impact
Brighton knew what they wanted this summer and they did not want to wait for it: their move to sign Joao Pedro happened so early that it was announced in the first week of May. The Brazilian has joined from Watford for a club-record fee of around £30 million and his performance against Chelsea here will be a source of huge excitement for Brighton’s fans.
Joao Pedro of Brighton & Hove Albion controls the ball during the second half of the pre-season friendly match – Adam Hunger/Getty Images North America
Brighton has become a place where young talent goes to thrive and, at 21, Pedro has plenty of time to grow under De Zerbi’s guidance. He is already a thrilling attacking talent and, in the second half in Philadelphia, he caused no end of problems for Chelsea’s defence.
The Brazilian was daring with the ball, looking to run at his opponents at all times, and won a penalty with his skilful dribbling. He then converted from the spot before later creating Brighton’s third goal, scored by Undav, by beating two Chelsea defenders on the left wing. A hugely promising start.
The top priority for Pochettino in these first few weeks of his Chelsea tenure has been to build the fitness of his players. The training sessions have therefore been relentless, with Raheem Sterling saying on Friday that it has been “probably the most I have run in a long time”.
It is understood that one of the leading performers in these fitness sessions has been Ben Chilwell. The England left-back is no stranger to hard work at this time of year and his running power is one of his most important attributes.
Ben Chilwell of Chelsea heads the ball while Solly March of Brighton defends – Adam Hunger/Getty Images North America
The early signs on this tour of the USA are that Chilwell will be well-suited to the system that Pochettino is trying to implement at Stamford Bridge. He scored a lovely goal in the midweek victory over Wrexham, darting in behind before lifting the ball over the goalkeeper, and against Brighton here he was a threat throughout the first half with his running from deep.
With Ian Maatsen, another left-back, playing ahead of him on the left side, Chilwell had the freedom to surge forward and stretch the game. It is a physically demanding role when it is played like this but, at a time when many full-backs are now tucking into midfield, Chilwell could thrive as an old-school overlapping player under Pochettino.
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