Chelsea have a few issues right now, but the biggest thing they are missing is a forward who is confident and calm in front of goal.
I watched Mauricio Pochettino’s side against Bournemouth on Sunday and, in terms of their build-up play in the final third, it was the best I’ve seen them this season.
As soon as they got in the box, though, everything fell apart. Their final ball and especially their finishing was so erratic, which was why they failed to score again and dropped more points in a 0-0 draw.
Chelsea have scored five goals in their first five league games – their fewest at this stage since 1995-96, when they finished 11th – and they have not found the net in their past two matches
It reminded me of a time when I was at Tottenham and our new forward line wasn’t firing, and of the effect that had on the rest of the team.
In 2008 we sold Dimitar Berbatov, Robbie Keane and Jermain Defoe in the space of a few months and replaced them with Roman Pavlyuchenko and Fraizer Campbell, who joined another recent signing Darren Bent up front.
That summer we went from being a team who understood what made our strikers tick, how to create lots of chances for them and knowing they would take them, to a side who just couldn’t score.
We only managed five goals in our first eight Premier League games that season, and it ended up costing our manager, Juande Ramos, his job. He was sacked before the end of October, when we were bottom of the table.
I remember us having loads of possession during that spell at Spurs, but being unable to turn it into goals – and Chelsea looked a lot like that against Bournemouth.
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‘An extra touch, and the chance was gone’
For once, there was a bit of a pattern to Chelsea’s play on Sunday.
Raheem Sterling and Mykhailo Mudryk were dropping into little pockets and the Blues were also getting their full-backs high and wide.
They got in good positions behind the Cherries defence time and time again but then, the moment they got anywhere near the goal, there was an extra touch or an extra pass that was not necessary, and the chance was gone.
Everyone seemed to be passing the buck a bit. Sterling was willing to have a few shots – he always does – but too many of his team-mates seemed like they didn’t want to take a chance.
Rather than being afraid to miss, someone in the team needed take responsibility in front of goal and kind of say ‘right, I am gong to make the difference’.
Collectively, they were lacking that kind of mindset in those areas, as well as some calmness. That combination meant they missed a lot of chances.
It made me think that, of all the players Chelsea are currently missing through injury, France forward Christopher Nkunku’s absence is probably the biggest blow.
‘Jackson looked a little bit lost’
Nicolas Jackson led Chelsea’s attack against Bournemouth, but to me he looked a little bit lost. Nothing seemed easy for him.
Jackson is clearly trying really hard but one of the things you always see with all good strikers is that they are always free in the opposition area, because they don’t just make one run – instead it is three or four.
They will go near post and if it is not on, they will spin around the back to try to find space somewhere else, and keep trying.
Basically they will do anything to get free, but every time I saw Jackson in the area, a centre-half had got him by the shirt, because he was always in front of them.
Jackson honestly looks like he needs some coaching to me, because of the runs he was making.
He was either running too far past the near post or moving away from the six-yard box when the ball arrived there. He was not in the right place at the right time, ever.
Why specific striker coaching might make a difference
The effort is there from Jackson, he just needs some guidance – and every player can benefit from an extra bit of that now and again.
When we were going through it at Spurs in 2008, Harry Redknapp arrived as manager after Ramos was sacked and brought in Les Ferdinand to work with our strikers.
He knew we still had talented goalscorers in the team, he just wanted them to get back to basics – holding up the ball, getting into the box and working on their finishing – so the goals would flow again.
Jackson had three shots against Bournemouth, with one on target. He has scored one goal in his first six appearances for the Blues, who signed him for £35m from Villarreal in the summer
It feels like Chelsea need a bit of specific striker coaching in the same way, just to refine the runs they are making into the area, and to find that calmness in front of goal.
It doesn’t even have to be actual coaching that makes things click. It can sometimes just be an extra thought that an ex-pro who has been a striker can give you, especially a former player at that club.
If someone such as Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink went in there and Jackson was able to sit down with him and pick his brains about his movement in the box, then it could make a huge difference.
You can see Pochettino has a plan
I feel like Jackson needs some help, but we have to factor in he is a new player at a new club who have struggled with number nines for years, pretty much ever since Didier Drogba left in 2012.
It is one of those positions at Chelsea that just seems to be a little bit cursed and, on top of that, they are now playing with a different team every week so there is no continuity there.
This is a brand new team but Pochettino still needs to solve this problem quickly, because he knows he is being judged instantly – everyone knows the history of the club and how quickly they hire and fire managers.
So, he knows he can’t wait until Nkunku is fit for things to improve – it could be 2024 before he is ready to play again.
What Pochettino can do is point at games like this one as evidence that what he is doing is working, and that now he just needs to get that last bit right, in front of goal.
Up until now they had been pretty average when I’d seen them this season but against Bournemouth they played through the lines to get in those good positions. It was the first time I could really understand what they were trying to do.
Jermaine Jenas was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.
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