Football News

Nicolas Jackson: From failed Bournemouth move to tip of Chelsea’s front line?

By Harry Edwards

Published: 15:29, 26 June 2023

Chelsea appear to be close to the signing of Nicolas Jackson from Villarreal according to reports.

The Blues have already welcomed Christopher Nkunku to Stamford Bridge this summer, but that was a deal already done towards the end of 2022, with just the announcement delayed until the 2022/23 campaign was over. So Jackson looks set to be the first actual signing of the current transfer window, and it’s an arrival Chelsea fans have been waiting for.

While Nkunku adds quality to a Chelsea front line that was struggling last season, the Frenchman isn’t a recognised striker; Jackson is. He may not be the biggest of names, but Jackson could be the man to transform Chelsea’s attack if given time and trust by Mauricio Pochettino.

According to the Evening Standard, Jackson has already completed his medical with Chelsea and agreed personal terms, with just the final details to be sorted. Further reports claim Chelsea are paying a little over his release clause in order to finance the deal in their own way.

Bournemouth fans may remember that this isn’t Jackson’s first medical with a Premier League club, as he was on his way to sign for the Cherries in January but failed his medical due to concerns over hip and hamstring issues.

But Jackson had no problems with his Chelsea medical and looks set to join the Blues after a strong end to the season piqued their interest. After returning from injury, Jackson scored 10 goals in his last 12 La Liga games of the season to help Villarreal secure Europa League football.

That 12-game run alone saw Jackson score more league goals than any Chelsea player did in the 2022/23 campaign as a whole, with Kai Havertz top scoring on seven — one ahead of Raheem Sterling on six.

When you compare Jackson against the man he is likely to replace in the Chelsea starting XI (Havertz) as well as the second topscorer (Sterling), the new arrival (Nkunku) and the man he will push in ahead of (Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang) it makes for promising reading for Blues fans. Only Nkunku scored goals at a better rate in the league last season than Jackson, netting 0.8 per 90 minutes compared to the Senegalese striker’s 0.7. However, the pair are tied on 0.7 for non-penalty goals. Havertz and Sterling, by comparison, averaged just 0.3 goals per 90 in the Premier League last season while Aubameyang was slightly worse at 0.2.

But where Jackson comes out on top is his accuracy, which Chelsea were lacking last season. In La Liga last season, Jackson hit the target with 62.16% of his total shots, a better accuracy than any Chelsea player to have at least 10 shots in the Premier League. He did do it with slightly fewer shots per 90 than Havertz and Aubameyang, but there are reasons to be positive.

One downside for Jackson right now, other than his rawness, seems to be his aerial prowess. Last season in La Liga, Jackson won just 0.8 aerial duels per 90 minutes with a success rate of 30.23% compared to Havertz’s 2.8 aerial duels won and 56.43% success rate. Standing at 6ft 1, Jackson has a natural disadvantage compared to Havertz at 6ft 3, so Chelsea would have to look to a different target further up the pitch if they want a decent out ball.

Of course, players go through purple patches and they cannot keep hold of them for too long — just look at Dusan Vlahovic — but even if Jackson doesn’t consistently match his level from the second half of 2022/23, the 21-year-old will still be an improvement on what Chelsea already have. There is also Jackson’s shot conversion rate, scoring 32.43% of his shots in La Liga last season, almost triple that of Havertz’s 11.29% and still clear of Nkunku’s 28.57%.

Jackson won’t be battling Nkunku for a spot, instead you’d expect them to form a partnership that could prove fruitful, with the latter playing off the striker and getting involved from a slightly deeper position.