Chelsea, the risky choice of Christopher Nkunku

(London) Announced in mid-December, but only confirmed on Tuesday, the arrival of Christopher Nkunku at Chelsea is a risky bet for the French striker who finds himself in a confused team deprived of European competition. Even more than a year from Euro-2024 and while its status in Blue remains to be confirmed.

“In my opinion, (Nkunku) decided to join Chelsea way too early. […] If I were his adviser or his father, I would be very worried at the moment, ”said Ralf Rangnick, former coach of Manchester United, but especially of RB Leipzig, on the German television channel ZDF at the end of April.

Six months ago, as the Premier League prepared to resume after the World Cup in Qatar, for which Nkunku had to forfeit due to a knee injury, the press revealed that the Leipzig striker was committed to joining the English capital in the summer, for more than 60 million euros.

Chelsea was then 8ebut could still dream of the Champions League, eight lengths from top 4.

But a second part of the season at least as mediocre, despite a winter transfer window where 300 million euros were invested, brought them down to the second part of the ranking (12e), costing coach Graham Potter his place in the meantime.

“To imagine that such an excellent player could arrive at a club in such a state, it breaks my heart, personally,” Rangnick continued.

The shadow of the Werner and Havertz flops

And the reasons to worry are real.

On the one hand, because the recent recruitments of the Blues in the Bundesliga have turned to the flop with Timo Werner and, to a lesser extent, Kaï Havertz.

Absolute stars in Germany, courted by all of Europe before wearing the blue jersey, they never really seemed at the level in the Premier League.

Arrived from Leipzig for 53 million euros in 2020 before returning there for 20 million euros in 2022, Werner certainly had plenty of time to give detailed feedback to his French teammate.

Counter-examples, such as Erling Haaland or Manuel Akanji at City, have however proven this season that the gap between the two championships is not necessarily in question.

This seems much more to do with the particular situation of Chelsea where the scorers suddenly seem to be playing with lead soles, as also attested by the spectacular lack of success of Romelu Lukaku last year or of Joao Felix, Raheem Sterling and Mykhailo Mudryk this season.

The greatest danger for Nkunku would also be that his arrival is accompanied by excessive hopes on his ability to reverse the trend.

Although co-top scorer in the Bundesliga this season, he was with the lowest total in the history of the competition, 16 goals.

Weapons to shine

Adding his six assists and reducing his effective playing time in his 25 league appearances, due to two injuries, that’s one assist every 86 minutes, but Nkunku alone won’t be the antidote to the blue sores.

Which doesn’t mean it can’t find its place there.

Capable of scoring from the right, the left, from the head, from near and from a distance or from direct free kicks, very calm in front of goal, with a technical ease superior to that of Werner, for example, he has the weapons to shine.

His great adaptability to Leipzig, where three coaches (Jesse Marsch, Domenico Tedesco and Marco Rose) have succeeded each other over the past two seasons, while his partners in attack also paraded – Yussuf Poulsen, Andre Silva, Brian Brobbey, Alexander Sorloth and Werner –, even allows for measured optimism.

The last positive signal is the arrival of Mauricio Pochettino at the head of the first team.

The Argentinian’s know-how to help players turn a corner and realize their full potential has already been tested at Tottenham with Harry Kane or Christian Eriksen.

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