Christopher Nkunku made the matchday squad for Chelsea’s EFL Cup win over Newcastle United and finally came off the bench. The 26-year-old was a second-half substitute and scored a spot-kick after the game went to a penalty shootout.
Nkunku was given 21 minutes from the bench, per Squawka, replacing Nicolas Jackson. The French international had one shot which hit the target, and he attempted nine passes with 89% accuracy. His penalty was fantastic too, flying into the top corner to double Chelsea’s advantage at the time.
Mauricio Pochettino managing Nkunku’s minutes
Nkunku made Chelsea’s matchday squad in Saturday’s Premier League win over Sheffield United but didn’t come off the bench. He was an unused substitute as Mauricio Pochettino didn’t want to risk a setback in his recovery.
The 26-year-old was given extra days to condition himself and impressed enough in training to be introduced against Newcastle. Pochettino told Chelsea’s official website: “(Nkunku) trained well, so he has the possibility to be involved in the game.”
Pochettino also said he’ll only give Nkunku 20 minutes from the bench, and he stuck to his promise. Chelsea have been without their £52m signing since August, so few could blame the coaching staff for being cautious. Chances won’t be taken on Nkunku’s fitness, so he’s likely to be eased back over several weeks.
Nkunku will be important for Chelsea in 2024
Pochettino said Nkunku could play up front, saying: “I think Nkunku can play as a No9. But he can play as a No10, No7 or a No11, different positions.” The Chelsea manager does have Nicolas Jackson and Armando Broja available, but things were expected of the French international.
Nkunku scored 23 goals with nine assists from 36 games for RB Leipzig last season. It’s easy to see why Chelsea were keen over the summer, but luck hadn’t been on their side. Nkunku clutched his knee after August’s pre-season draw with Borussia Dortmund, but it turned into a serious injury.
Nkunku making his Chelsea debut is a great thing, and fans will no doubt hope he features in the league.