Transfer Talk: Nkunku is Chris of life Chelsea desperately need
RB Leipzig forward Christopher Nkunku looks certain to be a Chelsea player next season.
An agreement has reportedly been made for the striker to join the Blues in the summer of 2023, with a medical already completed.
It says much for how highly Chelsea rate Nkunku that they launched a move just weeks after Graham Potter replaced Thomas Tuchel as manager.
His form for Leipzig warrants the hype surrounding his name and he was included in France’s World Cup squad before injury forced him to withdraw on the eve of the tournament.
Ahead of his proposed move to West London, we take a look at Nkunku's career, playing style and how he would fit in at Stamford Bridge.
Nkunku came through the youth system of Paris Saint-Germain, where it is notoriously difficult for young players to establish themselves.
Beginning his career at PSG as a midfielder, he made 78 appearances and scored 11 goals after making his debut at 18.
A move to Leipzig followed in 2019 where he was employed mainly as a winger or attacking midfielder under current Bayern Munich boss Julian Nagelsmann.
Though Nkunku was a hit at his new club, he only scored 12 goals across his first two seasons before exploding into life in the 2021-22 campaign.
Pushed further forward as a second striker or leading the line, Nkunku netted 35 times in 52 games, including seven goals in the Champions League group stages, that saw him grab a hat-trick at Manchester City.
The strikes have continued this season, with Nkunku adding 17 in 23 outings, prompting Chelsea to make an early move for the 25-year old.
There are two qualities in particular that have stood out over the last 18 months.
The first is Nkunku’s finishing ability, which has improved immensely since his early days when he was often labelled as wasteful.
Nkunku does not rank particularly highly when it comes to the number of shots attempted but he has developed into a deadly finisher.
In part, that is down to him being genuinely two-footed, making him unpredictable for defenders. Though only 5ft 9in tall, he also possesses surprisingly good heading prowess.
Allied to his calm and varied finishing, Nkunku’s ball carrying and ability to retain possession is a major asset.
This is a player that can create chances for himself rather than being reliant on the service of others.
Though the signs are positive regarding Nkunku, there are reasons for Chelsea fans to have their concerns.
Not least because the last forward that they signed from Leipzig turned out to be an expensive flop.
Timo Werner returned to the Red Bulls last summer after a £47.5million move to Chelsea in 2020 only yielded 23 goals across two seasons, despite having scored 34 times in 45 games in his previous campaign in Germany.
The major difference between the players would seem to be that Werner is reliant on exploiting space behind the defence, which comes rarely for Chelsea, while Nkunku can make things happen when defenders are in front of him.
Composure in front of goal would appear to be another advantage that the Frenchman has over his team-mate, who was guilty of profligacy during his time in the Premier League.
A more pertinent concern for Chelsea supporters is that Nkunku has been performing at this new level for a relatively short period of time, with memories still fresh of Bundesliga signings that have failed to deliver at Stamford Bridge.
Aside from Werner, Kai Havertz is another attacker signed from Germany who has failed to make the impression that was expected of him.
Havertz is among Potter’s forward options, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Armando Broja and Raheem Sterling the other players that can play centrally.
Sterling is the current top scorer at Chelsea with just five goals and his fellow summer signing Aubameyang has only netted three times in 12 appearances since his move from Barcelona.
Improvements in the final third are clearly needed and though he represents a gamble with a reported release clause of £52.7m, the signing of Nkunku looks to be a calculated one.
He certainly seems a natural fit tactically, with Potter generally using a 3-4-2-1 formation, but also sometimes opting for two strikers.
Nkunku is used to both systems at Leipzig and if he makes the move to Chelsea, promises to be an upgrade on the current personnel.