Mauricio Pochettino sets challenge for Christopher Nkunku after first Chelsea start

Mauricio Pochettino says Christopher Nkunku needs to become more involved after starting his first game for Chelsea, but admits more adaptation is required.

Nkunku joined Chelsea on a six-year deal earlier this summer, but had to wait until Christmas Eve to make his Premier League debut after sustaining a serious knee injury in pre-season.

The 26-year-old marked that first Premier League outing with a goal, scoring a stoppage-time header as Chelsea slipped to a 2-1 defeat at Wolves, and was handed his first start by Pochettino in Wednesday’s much-needed 2-1 win over Crystal Palace.

Nkunku got 70 valuable minutes under his belt before being replaced by eventual match winner Noni Madueke, and Pochettino was pleased with his efforts while recognising that more is needed from the Frenchman as he acclimatises to his new surroundings.

“He needs to adapt to the team and the Premier League, but he played more than 60 minutes and it was an important step for him,” Pochettino remarked.

“There were a few combinations that were very good but we need to repeat these actions. We need him to be more involved but it’s normal, it’s his first 70 minutes. He needs to play games and he will start to find himself and adapt.”

Reacting to his first start, Nkunku told Chelsea’s official website: “It meant a lot. I was very happy. For six months I didn’t play, I didn’t start a game, so I feel good.

“The most important thing is that I have no issues after the games, so we continue to improve.”

Victory at Stamford Bridge eased some of the pressure on Pochettino’s shoulders, lifting the club back into the top half of the Premier League table. It was just the seventh time Chelsea have picked up three points in the Argentine’s 19 games in charge – they sit 10th in the table, 12 points behind fourth-place Manchester City.


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