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Nkunku’s Return: How can the Frenchman Revitalize Chelsea’s Game?

Christopher Nkunku emerges as a potential catalyst for a revitalized Chelsea, showcasing his impact against Crystal Palace yesterday(28th December). While Conor Gallagher usually takes the spotlight during team announcements, Nkunku’s Premier League debut garnered significant attention, with fans hoping for a transformative performance.

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Aug 2, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Borussia Dortmund defender Mats Hummels (15) battles for the ball against Chelsea forward Christopher Nkunku (45) during the first half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

In the 71 minutes of his gradual return to peak fitness, Nkunku demonstrated how he could uplift a Chelsea attack that has often fallen short of expectations. His standout moment came in the opening goal, where he displayed subtle brilliance to breach the Palace defense.

Capitalizing on Nathaniel Clyne’s slip and an underhit pass from Malo Gusto, Nkunku orchestrated a clever sequence, threading a tight gap to Mykhailo Mudryk. Despite Joachim Andersen’s interception, Nkunku adeptly redirected the ball to Gusto with a quick, precise movement. This not only froze four Palace defenders but also put Marc Guehi, their last line of defense, in a challenging position.

  1. When is Chelsea’s Next Match?

    Chelsea’s next match is on 30th December at 6 pm, IST against Luton Town. The Official Broadcast will be televised on Star Sports Select 1, Star Sports 3 and Star Sports Select HD 1. You can also catch the Live Stream in Disney+ Hotstar.

Ultimately, Gusto’s low cross led to Mudryk’s goal, showcasing the effectiveness of Nkunku’s strategic play. The seamless execution highlighted Nkunku’s ability to influence the game without even needing to lift his head.

This season in the Premier League will undoubtedly witness numerous instances of elite skill, but Christopher Nkunku’s performance stood out for its exceptional spatial awareness, football IQ, rapid decision-making, and technical precision. It represented top-tier proficiency and addressed the glaring deficiency that Chelsea has faced in the final third throughout a challenging first half of the season.

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Soccer Football – Premier League – AFC Bournemouth v Chelsea – Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth, Britain – September 17, 2023 Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino Action Images via Reuters/Matthew Childs

Even though head coach Mauricio Pochettino acknowledged that Nkunku is still on the path to reaching his peak form, he emphasized the player’s intelligence and ability to connect different elements on the field. The 2-1 victory further highlighted Nkunku’s valuable contributions, suggesting that as he continues to recover and adapt, Chelsea can anticipate a significant boost in their overall gameplay.

Read More: Top 5 Players With The Highest Raid Points in Single Match in PKL History

Unlocking Possibilities: Nkunku’s Unconventional Brilliance for Chelsea

At 26, Christopher Nkunku doesn’t fit the traditional mold of a solution to Chelsea’s No. 9 issue, yet his impact transcends conventional striker roles, as demonstrated in the recent victory against Wolverhampton Wanderers. A highly skilled and versatile forward, Nkunku possesses the ability to initiate, link, or finish plays, significantly expanding the potential for dangerous combinations in the final third.

During pre-season, Nkunku showcased his strategic positioning on the left wing, creating space for the overlapping Ben Chilwell while seamlessly connecting with teammates Jackson and Carney Chukwuemeka. Despite injuries reshaping Pochettino’s team, Nkunku, acquired from RB Leipzig in a notable deal, stands out as the most impactful absence, leaving the team in need of his experience.

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Soccer Football – Premier League – Wolverhampton Wanderers v Chelsea – Molineux Stadium, Wolverhampton, Britain – December 24, 2023 Chelsea’s Christopher Nkunku scores their first goal Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers

In the promising first half against Palace, glimpses of Nkunku’s chemistry with Jackson persisted, hinting at a continued understanding despite the time spent on the sidelines. Notably, he synergized effectively with Mudryk’s dynamic runs from the left flank, illustrating a willingness to contribute beyond a fixed role in the team.

However, Nkunku’s ongoing recovery means that Chelsea is still in the early stages of forging these attacking partnerships. Emphasizing fitness as a priority, he was substituted after 71 minutes, visibly struggling to reach peak performance after halftime.

Pochettino’s Perspective on Nkunku’s Progress and Future Collaborations

Mauricio Pochettino, in his post-match analysis, acknowledged the positive glimpses in Christopher Nkunku’s performance but emphasized the need for a higher frequency of impactful actions. Pochettino stressed that while there were notable moments, the volume of such actions should be increased significantly, underlining the normalcy of the process as Nkunku returns to full match fitness.

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Soccer Football – Carabao Cup – Quarter Final – Chelsea v Newcastle United – Stamford Bridge, London, Britain – December 19, 2023 Chelsea’s Christopher Nkunku celebrates after winning the penalty shootout Action Images via Reuters/Peter Cziborra/File Photo

It’s not only one, two, three, four in 45 minutes. We need him to be more involved,” remarked Pochettino. Recognizing that it was Nkunku’s first 70 minutes on the field and that fatigue played a role, Pochettino highlighted the necessity for more game time to aid Nkunku’s adaptation to the team and establish connections with fellow players.

In a post-match comment that hinted at future attacking strategies, Pochettino expressed a desire to see Nkunku in the same attacking unit as Cole Palmer, another standout creative force at Stamford Bridge. However, Palmer, suspended for the Palace win, left a void that was temporarily filled by Noni Madueke. Pochettino praised Madueke’s match-winning cameo, noting his freedom on the field and the determination to prove himself after limited playtime.

He played free,” said Pochettino of Madueke, highlighting the player’s response to feeling overlooked.

Pochettino’s Struggle: Can Nkunku Become His & Chelsea’s Savior?

During the initial five months of Mauricio Pochettino’s tenure, he grappled with assembling consistent attacking units composed of less-than-ideal components, heavily relying on a limited pool of semi-reliable options, namely Palmer and Raheem Sterling. However, the return of Christopher Nkunku from injury now provides Pochettino with a potential roadmap toward bolstering the team’s offensive capabilities, irrespective of whether a new striker is secured in January.

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Christopher Nkunku, Image Credits – Reuters

While Nkunku may not be the outright savior that Stamford Bridge is yearning for, there is a promising prospect that he can serve as the catalyst for an improved attacking dynamic. His versatility and skill set bring a new dimension to Pochettino’s options, offering hope for a more potent and well-rounded offensive strategy in the months to come.


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