Dear Chelsea, please allow us to enjoy the Nicolas Jackson chaos for a whole season

Will Ford
Nicolas Jackson Chelsea
Chelsea's Nicolas Jackson is statistically the worst finished in the Premier League.

If Chelsea aren’t going to give Nicolas Jackson a season to show if he’s up to the task then what’s this ‘project’ all about? Please don’t ruin our fun.

There’s a common thread running through pundit takes on Chelsea’s dismal start to the season. Whether they tip the Blues to sign Victor Osimhen, Ivan Toney or some other poor sod linked with the club where goalscorers go to crumble, they all agree that Mauricio Pochettino is in dire need of a striker in January.

But as consistent as their certainty that a goalscoring reinforcement is needed at Stamford Bridge, is the prerequisite for them to flag their fondness of Nicolas Jackson, the £32m summer signing from Villarreal.

The 22-year-old has started all but one of Chelsea’s games this season, scoring two goals, and is statistically the worst finisher in the division – an honour bestowed upon Kai Havertz last season, and something that has blighted strikers at Chelsea since, and well before, xG records began.

And yet, Jackson has that ‘something-about-him’ quality that everyone – pundits, fans, coaches and teammates – admires. You can’t take your eyes off him, and we don’t want to, for a whole season at least.

He’s miscontrolled the ball more than any other player in the Premier League (26), but has also completed more take-ons (12) than any other striker. He chases everything and appears to thoroughly enjoy physical battles with defenders.

He’s the first player to reach five yellow cards – none of them for challenges on opposition players – with his last one for failing to move as a free-kick was being taken coming straight after Pochettino had warned him about “cheap” cautions.

All of it, the good and the bad, means that Jackson is, more than anything, really good fun.

Judging by their reaction to his goal against Brighton in the Carabao Cup, his Chelsea teammates agree, and in that moment – if they hadn’t already – the fans took him to their hearts, as Jackson beat his chest and pointed to the Chelsea badge.

A similarly wild celebration received no support from his fellow players later in the game as they realised immediately, just as everyone but Jackson had, that the goal had immediately (though incorrectly) been ruled out for offside. Another example of the fun we were talking about.

Chelsea vs Brighton
The Chelsea players have warmed to Nicolas Jackson.

But it wouldn’t be fun without hope. Jackson is a very raw but talented footballer, who with a bit (OK, quite a lot) of coaching, could be the striker Chelsea need. Isn’t that one of the key reasons for hiring Pochettino? He was deemed perfect for the job by pretty much everyone because of his track record of improving young players. The room for improvement with Jackson is massive, and if the Chelsea ‘project’ doesn’t include developing inexperienced talent then we’re at a complete loss as to what it’s all about.

Jackson has got to be given the opportunity to improve, and those chances will diminish to almost nothing if Chelsea sign a striker in January.

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What’s the best they can hope for by signing one before the summer? They will pay over the odds, quite possibly not for their first choice option, to land someone to score goals to take them into the top 10, maybe the Europa League at a push? What’s the point?

Pochettino may, quite reasonably, be thinking if it’s his job or Jackson’s game time at risk then he will quite happily stick the Senegalese striker on the bench for the second half of the season. But unless Napoli continue to post questionable TikToks and drive Osimhen towards the exit, creating a situation where Chelsea feel they can’t afford to miss out on their top target, the club shouldn’t be thinking that way yet.

Jackson may currently be one of the problems at Chelsea, but he could also be the solution. And wouldn’t it be just lovely for a striker to join Chelsea and get better, rather than see their career disappear along with the goals they used to score? That is, after all, what this ‘project’ is all about, isn’t it?