Chelsea’s biggest issue last season was the inability to simply put the ball in the back of the net. Only four teams scored fewer Premier League goals than the Blues (38), with even relegated pair Leeds and Leicester netting more.
Strengthening the frontline was always the priority for a west London side in need of a refresh this summer. Yet they had to strike a balance.
Chelsea’s squad remains incredibly bloated, though the departures of N’Golo Kante and Kalidou Koulibaly have helped, at the very least, cut the wage bill. Hakim Ziyech, Kai Havertz, Edouard Mendy and Mason Mount are expected to follow the pair out of the Stamford Bridge exit as the squad is streamlined.
We’re not yet in July, but the Blues have at least made their first move to correct their goal issues: Christopher Nkunku has arrived from RB Leipzig on the back of a solid Bundesliga campaign that saw him net 16 times – no player in Germany’s top tier scored more.
The 25-year-old won’t be the only forward to rock up in the capital, however, with Nicolas Jackson set to follow suit.
Jackson was prepped for a move to Bournemouth in January, only to fail a medical, and was subsequently linked with a move to Aston Villa this summer – yet Chelsea have won the race for the 22-year-old, who scored 12 goals and provided four assists in LaLiga last season, a fine return for a player who registered just 1603 minutes of game time.
Of those 12 goals, ten were scored since the turn of the year; only former Real Madrid hitman Karim Benzema (12) bagged more in Spain’s top tier in the first half of 2023.
Crucially, Jackson knows exactly where the goal is. Feed the Senegalese star and he’ll score. Of the 120 players to muster 25 or more shots, Jackson returned the best conversion rate (29.3 per cent) in the 22/23 LaLiga campaign.
Despite a goalshy season, Chelsea still averaged the eighth most key passes per game (9.9) in the Premier League, a return that can be improved upon, but a reasonable base nonetheless. In addition, the Blues ranked tenth for big chances created (57), yet in turn missed the sixth most (52). Kai Havertz was the biggest offender, missing 14 clear-cut goalscoring opportunities, but with the German set to leave for Arsenal there is room for a new striker at Stamford Bridge.
Jackson, by contrast, performed superbly when the chances were laid out on a plate, returning a clear-cut conversion rate of 56.3 per cent – the best in Spain’s top flight last season.
However, there is more to Jackson’s game than just scoring goals. He’s not an old-fashioned No.9, but rather a modern-day forward, who looks to link the play as well as get on the end of chances. An average of 1.2 key passes per 90 minutes is a respectable average, while a pass success rate of 76.4 per cent from 17.9 passes per 90 are solid figures for a striker.
With Mauricio Pochettino expected to use a 4-2-3-1 setup, he’ll need his leading frontman to work his way into the box and, where needed, hold up possession before laying the ball on for his teammates. Jackson, then, ticks the right boxes.
Considering the exciting wingers at Pochettino’s disposal – who’ll undoubtedly benefit from a full pre-season in a settled environment under the Argentine’s watchful eye – and the possibility of Nkunku operating in the No.10 role as a second striker, Jackson’s willingness to bring others into play means Chelsea should quickly dwarf their 38-goal haul from last season.
The Senegal star isn’t perhaps the same headline-stealing hitman in the form of Victor Osimhen that some supporters may crave, but then if Jackson is the ideal fit, is that really an issue?
Chelsea will be landing a player who will benefit the current crop of attackers on the books at Stamford Bridge and, over the longer term, can become the complete centre-forward with the right coaching. Pochettino, after all, did turn Harry Kane into a world-beater.