Talking Tactics

Chelsea v Spurs: Can Jackson expose high line again?

By Adrian Clarke 30 Apr 2024
Nicolas Jackson Chelsea

Adrian Clarke says to watch out for the Blues striker who hit a hat-trick in the reverse fixture

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Player analysis - Nicolas Jackson (Chelsea)

Chelsea’s Jackson has experienced a hit-and-miss debut Premier League season, but Spurs will know the threat he carries when they face him at Stamford Bridge on Thursday.


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The Senegalese striker scored a hat-trick against Spurs in November, during a dramatic 4-1 success in which the home side had two players sent off and also lost James Maddison and Micky van de Ven to injury.

All three strikes arrived off the back of through-balls that exposed Ange Postecoglou’s high line, so Mauricio Pochettino is likely to target that tactical fragility once more.

Chelsea attempted 11 through-balls, the most of any side in a match this season.

Jackson's first goal v Spurs

It may surprise you to learn that Jackson’s third goal in that win is the only one of his 10 league goals that directly stemmed from a through-ball which slipped him in for a 1v1 with the goalkeeper.

Given that Jackson rounded Guglielmo Vicario with confidence, Blues supporters may have expected the 22-year-old to score that type of goal more often.


Jackson is always looking to make those telling runs beyond the last man, but his success rate in those situations has not been great across the season.

He boasts an impressive top speed of 35.21km/h, but must time his runs properly.

Now facing the Premier League's quickest player, Van de Ven, he may be tempted to begin his sprints a fraction earlier than usual, but this could prove detrimental.

He has been flagged offside 27 times, second only to Darwin Nunez's 30, and is facing a well-drilled Spurs defence who specialise in catching forwards out.

Postecoglou’s bold side are not afraid to hold their line high, as shown below from the 106 offside decisions they have provoked.

Aston Villa are the only team to catch rival teams offside more often.

Spurs offsides provoked

To their credit Spurs are not punished by through-balls anywhere near as often as Viila.

A total of 53 through-balls have been successful against Villa from 112 attempted passes, while Spurs have been sliced open by 27 accurate such passes from a tally of 63.

A willing runner

Chelsea’s players know that Jackson will always be on the move, attempting to show for the ball.

He does not hide in matches and, to his credit, his work-rate cannot be faulted.

Son Heung-min is the only striker who makes more sprints per 90 minutes.

PL forwards with most sprints in 23/24
Player Sprints per 90
Son Heung-min  26.84
Nicolas Jackson 26.82
Darwin Nunez 26.05
Anthony Gordon 25.64
Beto 23.66

Enzo Fernandez’s absence could be felt in regard to picking Jackson's runs out with a pass, but Cole Palmer, Conor Gallagher and Moises Caicedo are more than capable of finding him if the timing is right.

PL forwards with most targeted runs 23/24
Player Targeted runs per 90
Beto 16.10
Dominic Calvert-Lewin 15.73
Darwin Nunez 14.33
Ollie Watkins 13.20
Nicolas Jackson 13.06

Jackson cannot complain about the number of opportunities he receives.

Only seven Premier League players have a higher xG (Expected Goals tally) than his 15.18, but he has not been as ruthless as Pochettino would have hoped.

In terms of the differential between goals scored and Expected Goals, only two Premier League forwards have a worse return.

PL forwards' xG difference 23/24
Player xG difference
Darwin Nunez -6.47
Dominic Calvert-Lewin -6.15
Nicolas Jackson -5.18
Erling Haaland -4.53
Brennan Johnson -4.28

Jackson is at his best when getting on the end of chances which fall to him inside the centre of the box.

He has cut in from the left many times to fire off shots from the angle, but with barely any success at all.

A quick study of Jackson’s activity inside the area shows some big misses from within the six-yard box, including a free header against Spurs, but also a pattern that displays where he is at his best.

From between the width of the goalposts, he scores.

Nicolas Jackson twenty3

Jackson showed good composure to control the ball before finishing clinically in home matches against Everton and Manchester City, and in an early-season win away at Burnley.

Other recent strikes include a terrific header at Brentford, and a brilliant instinctive back-flick at home to Newcastle United.

Spurs' poor record at the Bridge

Spurs need three points in this fixture to apply pressure on Villa in fourth place, but they travel in the knowledge they have won just once in their last 33 visits to Chelsea.

The Blues also impressed last time out against Villa, coming back to claim a 2-2 draw, so this will be another stern examination for Spurs.

Jackson may not be as lethal as some other top-flight strikers, but Spurs will know all about his qualities.

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