Nicolas Jackson’s killer instinct deserts him three times in harsh Wembley lesson

Nicolas Jackson goes past keeper but cannot score

Nicolas Jackson has scored as many Premier League goals for Chelsea as Didier Drogba did in his first season at the club, but he still has some catching up to do when it comes to the big moments.

Drogba became Chelsea’s man for the big occasion and he holds the record for the most goals scored at the new Wembley with eight. When his side needed him most, the Ivorian invariably stepped up.

Jackson should have got off the mark at Wembley – not once, not twice, but three times on Saturday – and the next stage of his development is not only to become more prolific but to take his big chances in the big moments during the biggest of games.

The way in which he sat in the centre circle at the end of Chelsea’s one-goal defeat by Manchester City, being consoled by some staff members and team-mates, suggested Jackson knew a big opportunity had passed him by.

It is harsh to judge Jackson or any other Chelsea striker against Drogba and the problems he caused City suggested that the 22-year-old is worth sticking with. He has got a lot going for him if he can find a killer instinct.

His part in the ridiculous penalty row against Everton, which overshadowed his well-taken 10th league goal, meant Jackson’s performance against City on the big stage was always going to be scrutinised.

For the most part he was good, but his performance will be remembered largely for the chances that got away. That is what happens when you play for a big club whose fans expect the very best.

What should not be forgotten is the way Jackson excellently arched and timed his run to stay onside and get a head start on John Stones to race on to Enzo Fernandez’s pass in the first half. There was nothing wrong with the way the striker rounded goalkeeper Stefan Ortega either, but a moment’s hesitation cost him dear. Not only did Jackson end up too wide to shoot, but he also failed to find a team-mate inside the penalty area.

At the end of a first-half in which he had constantly caused City’s defenders problems by peeling out to the left – on one occasion providing an inviting low cross that a Chelsea team-mate should have anticipated – his mind was clearly still on his missed chance. As the whistle went for the break, Jackson appeared to punch the ground.

Maybe it had not properly left him four minutes after the restart, when Jackson had two more opportunities to break his Wembley duck.

A Conor Gallagher pass sent him through again and this time he got off a low shot that was too close to Ortega. The loose ball was eventually crossed back into the box by Cole Palmer and Jackson did not get a clean header on goal, allowing Ortega to make another excellent save.

Jackson slapped his hands in frustration, but he deserves credit that not once did he go missing at Wembley. The easy thing would have been to stop making the runs, avoid putting himself in the pressure situations and try to let others take over.

But, as perfectly shown by the blue streak he has had put into his hair, Jackson is anything but a shrinking violet and there was no way he was going to hide.

Entering into a race with City and England full-back Kyle Walker is not particularly advisable, just ask Kylian Mbappe. But Jackson gave it a good go just after the hour mark and might well have won a penalty for his efforts on another day.

Walker matched Jackson stride for stride into his own penalty and appeared to give the former Villarreal player a subtle shove before just about winning the contest. Jackson went down and appealed for a spot-kick, which Mauricio Pochettino would have expected him to give to Palmer, but referee Michael Oliver was not interested.

Jackson has displayed an ability to learn from his mistakes at Chelsea, handling the moans and groans of supporters better after a fall-out with one in the home defeat by Brentford earlier this season and improving his discipline.

His finishing has also got better as the season has gone on, but, much like Pochettino’s team in general, Jackson is a work in progress and Saturday offered more evidence that he is some way from being the finished product.

It is highly unlikely he will ever match Drogba’s incredible achievements for Chelsea, but Jackson has proved himself worth persevering with and his wasted Wembley chances provided a harsh but valuable lesson.


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