Why Nicolas Jackson epitomises Chelsea's current problems
Juventus’ Dusan Vlahovic was heavily linked, but a move for the Serbia international didn’t materialise before the transfer window slammed shut.
Even their pursuit of the Juve man was not full-hearted given the presence of Jackson, Armando Broja and Christopher Nkunku.
Broja, 21, came off the bench during Chelsea’s 1-0 loss against Aston Villa on Sunday to mark his first appearance in a Blues shirt since 2022 after suffering an ACL injury against the same opposition in a friendly during the World Cup break.
However, the Albanian is far from experienced himself and can’t be expected to lead the line yet as he continues his recovery to full fitness.
As for Nkunku, while he played up front fairly regularly for RB Leipzig, he was mostly deployed as a No.10 or off the left wing during pre-season.
The Frenchman did play as Chelsea’s starting striker too, but his knee injury has meant he hasn’t featured in the Premier League.
As a result of injuries to Broja and Nkunku, Jackson has started every league game for Chelsea so far this season and the 3-0 win over Luton Town is the only match in which he has not played all 90 minutes.
For a 22-year-old who only amassed 16 La Liga starts for Villarreal last campaign, it was a lot to ask of Jackson to become the main man at Stamford Bridge.
His start to life in the Premier League has not been poor - his link play, movement and pressing have all been of the highest quality - but his finishing and inexperience has let him down.
The Senegal international has only scored one goal in his opening six games, while he has amassed five yellow cards and will now face a one-game suspension due to an accumulation of bookings.
Jackson has been very promising and given his transfer fee was relatively modest in today’s market, Chelsea will be hopeful that he will come good in the future, but his issues in front of goal have been plain to see.
Why Jackson has summed up Chelsea’s season
Jackson’s start to life at Chelsea has actually epitomised the Blues’ campaign so far - bright moments with plenty of promise, but ultimately a lack of experience, some naivety and no finishing touch.
Across the opening five Premier League matches, only Ollie Watkins has a worse record of Expected Goals (xG) underperformance than Jackson. The Chelsea man had scored just once from an xG of 3.3 over the course of his first five English top flight appearances.
Watkins then put that right by scoring the only goal of the game in Villa’s 1-0 win over Chelsea on Sunday. As a result, Jackson now has the worst xG underperformance of any player in the 2023-24 Premier League season.
All the underlying metrics suggest Chelsea will come good eventually, but Jackson’s lack of clinical edge epitomises the club’s struggles at the start of the new campaign.
The Blues should be pushing for Champions League football - having spent over €1 billion in three transfer windows under Todd Boehly’s ownership - but they are instead languishing in 14th place with just one win in six league matches.
Mauricio Pochettino has questions to answer having picked up only five points so far this campaign and the Argentine will be feeling the pressure at the Bridge.
The Chelsea fans are not pleased with his team selection choices - most notably his continued use of Levi Colwill at left-back - and they will feel things must change soon.
However, his young squad are lacking the necessary experience and a reliable goal-scorer. Creating chances is great, but Chelsea can’t score and they will remain in the lower reaches of the Premier League until that is fixed.