Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

Runners Beyond Jackson

Nicolas Jackson’s best attribute is his ability to turn a defender, but Chelsea have lacked runners in the channels once he gets past his man. Cole Palmer timed his run to perfection to match Jackson’s turn for the third goal.

Figure 1.1 - Axel Disasi passes to Nicolas Jackson from a free kick.
Figure 1.2 - Nicolas Jackson receives the ball.
Figure 1.3 - Nicolas Jackson shifts his hips infield to lengthen the distance between his body and the ball.
Figure 1.4 - Nicolas Jackson turns sharply and prepared a touch as the defender is behind him.
Figure 1.5 - Nicolas Jackson lowers his body and takes the touch forward away from the defender. Cole Palmer begins his run.

Jackson’s left knee nearly touches the ground. He uses that lower stance to brace for the impact from the defender, and then launches off his back foot.

Once the defender is closest to his right shoulder, away from the space he wants to take a touch into, he turns.

The defender’s momentum and foot stance, pointed towards Chelsea’s goal, do not allow him to turn as fast. For that reason, when Jackson turns quickly, he creates a massive amount of separation between him and the defender.

Once Cole Palmer sees that Jackson is going to take that touch, he immediately goes. You need to move at speed to make this work, or else Luton Town will have time to react and get in a compact position that would force Jackson to pass back or wide, rather than central to Palmer.

Figure 1.6 - Christopher Nkunku begins his run, dragging a defender to the left.
Figure 1.7 - Nicolas Jackson plays Cole Palmer into the box.
Figure 1.8 - Cole Palmer runs onto the ball.
Figure 1.9 - Cole Palmer fakes the shot but dribbles to the right past the keeper.
Figure 1.10 - Cole Palmer calmly scores.

Then it comes down to individual quality from Palmer to calmly dribble past the goalkeeper, fake a shot to create separation with a defender, and then coolly pass the ball into the net for the goal.

To break down a team like Luton Town, you want that quick transition central, like how Manchester City attacked Bournemouth. Slow in the initial build-up in your own half, to drag the opposition out, then quick once you break past the half-way line. Don’t allow them to organize.

You need runners central beyond the ball carrier. Enzo Fernandez and Connor Gallagher didn’t offer that previously, now Christopher Nkunku and Cole Palmer do, and compare the results.

Match: Luton Town 2-3 Chelsea, 30 December 2023

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