Christopher Nkunku: Chelsea, is this what you signed up for?
By Alessandro Schiavone at SIGNAL Iduna Park, Dortmund
Borussia Dortmund 1-1 RB Leipzig
As if Chelsea don't already have enough quizzes of their own to solve, the striker who looks set to join them next season, Christopher Nkunku's woes continue. In fact, he was hardly value for money yesterday night as RB Leipzig suffered a 2-1 defeat at Borussia Dortmund, the Blues' next Champions League opponents.
The 25-year-old Frenchman, who will give Chelsea much-needed attacking impetus, unpredictability on and off the ball and...it's to be hoped GOALS didn't fare any better as the Blues' current misfiring forward options.
Yet to score since early November he let his side down by fluffing his lines twice in the first period before becoming a passenger after the restart as Leipzig were chasing a goal to reopen the game. Through on goal with the game still locked at 0-0, he was unable to get his shot away on time as a result of his overthinking and hesitancy. Nico Schlotterbeck, a few yards behind, caught up with him despite having a lot of ground to make up for.
And the striker, fresh from a painful split-up from his long-term girlfriend Amelie, missed another good chance when curling his effort miles off target minutes later. Throughout the whole game, he was a far cry from the player who was named the Bundesliga's best in the 2021/2022 campaign. Is this the man Chelsea are getting? Is he supposed to address their failings in front of goal? There have been numerous players who looked the part in German football and failed to replicate their form on this orbit and who tells you that Nkunku will buck the trend? Yesterday's abject performance takes nothing away from the talented young man he is but it raised questions about Chelsea's recruitment team. Why signing a similar players to the one they already have? Because he's not the physical target man who can lead the line on his own like Drogba or Diego Costa. Why spending a fortune on someone who may not take them forward? Worryingly, apart from missing chance after chance, he didn't shine in terms of team work either. Instead of taking the initiative, he looked resigned to the fate that it wasn't going to be his night.
A quick dribbling artist like he is should have stretched Dortmund's backline and run them down, made a nuisance of himself, worked way harder off the ball. But none of all that was the case. Making things worse, his teammates also failed to establish the supply lines to him after they went 2-0 down. And while Nkunku tried a bit harder towards the end, he failed to find pockets of space as Dortmund stubbornly defended as a unit. Yet with hindsight, had he scored early on, Leipzig would have asserted their authority on the game and spiked Dortmund's guns. It always takes a hell of a performance to beat Dortmund these days, especially if you fall one or two goals behind.
The consensus is that Marco Rose's side lost this game in the early stages due to Nkunku's poor finishing. Chelsea are observing from afar and IF it is still possible to pull out of the deal, they should. The Londoners have enough players already who are good on the ball and with a knack for dribbling their way forward. All they need is a player who can put the ball into the back of the net. Someone who can attack the near-post, score headers, hold up the ball. All things considered, yesterday night's bad day at the office may also have something to do with the recent split-up from his girlfriend. He looked demoralised and short on confidence. Yet the positive news for the Blues supporters is that he has enough time to get over it and move on before pre-season starts.