Mauricio Pochettino faces a significant challenge at Chelsea this season, primarily centered around filling the void left by Christopher Nkunku.
The Blues invested £52 million in Nkunku’s acquisition last summer, with the deal in the works since the previous October.
However, to the frustration of Chelsea fans, the Frenchman has yet to make his debut for the club.
Nkunku was expected to usher in a new era at Stamford Bridge, offering hope after years of failed forward signings and expensive transfers that didn’t live up to expectations.
Chelsea, having finished 12th the previous season and missing out on European football, considered themselves fortunate to secure a player of Nkunku’s caliber.
Unfortunately, Nkunku’s injury has left Pochettino without a key player, with his return unlikely before December or even 2024, hampering Chelsea’s progress.
During pre-season, Nkunku played a pivotal role, operating across the attack in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Although he initially scored from a No.10 position, he later shifted to the left, creating space for Carney Chukwuemeka in the center.
Nkunku’s replacement is also sidelined for another three weeks, forcing Conor Gallagher and Enzo Fernandez into unfamiliar roles.
This has disrupted the balance in Chelsea’s attack, with Ben Chilwell adapting to a left-wing role to compensate for Nkunku’s absence, leading to adjustments in the backline as well.
Encouragingly, Nkunku is making progress in his recovery, although he will miss watching Chelsea’s games from home.
Pochettino expressed sympathy for Nkunku’s situation and emphasized the team’s commitment to finding short-term, medium-term, and long-term solutions to cope with his absence.
The Argentine manager has faced difficulties in finding a solution, but the arrival of Cole Palmer from Manchester City offers hope.
Palmer is a versatile forward who can operate behind a striker or on the right-wing, making him a more natural replacement for Chukwuemeka and Nkunku than Gallagher or Fernandez.
Chelsea fans, who often dread the winter months due to past struggles, are now eagerly anticipating Nkunku’s return to action.
Meanwhile, Nkunku’s compatriot, Wesley Fofana, is also undergoing rehabilitation for a severe knee injury, but his return timeline is even more uncertain.
Despite these setbacks, Chelsea remains determined to overcome their challenges and compete at the highest level.