Mauricio Pochettino: Nicolas Jackson ‘needs time to improve’ but ‘the first season is always difficult’

Speaking ahead of Chelsea’s trip across London to face Arsenal on Tuesday, Mauricio Pochettino reflected on Nicolas Jackson’s performance during Saturday’s Emirates FA Cup semifinal loss to Manchester City.

The Argentine also commented on Cole Palmer’s availability for the clash in N5, and expressed his best wishes for Chelsea Women ahead of their decisive UEFA Women’s Champions League clash against Barcelona.

‘I don’t believe [Cole Palmer] can be involved,’ explained Pochettino, citing illness as the cause, ‘but we need to assess him tomorrow and then we can decide. Even if he will be good tomorrow, maybe he is not in a condition to play.’

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‘I hope he can recover from this situation as soon as possible and be involved again with the team.’

‘With or without [him], we believe that we can win. The most important thing is the team, the collective. Of course, he is an important part of the team. He is doing fantastic for us, but this is Chelsea and there are plenty of players who can perform and do the job also.’

Nicolas Jackson will shoulder the burden of Palmer’s absence, in what will be a true test of character after he was heavily criticised for a poor performance against Manchester City. The Senegalese forward often made the wrong decision in the final third, but Pochettino stressed that ‘the first season is always difficult for all of the players, more when you are in a position like a striker and you need to perform and score goals. Everyone expects every single touch to score a goal.’

‘He is our main striker; the only striker we have fit because [Christopher] Nkunku nearly did not play in the whole season. [Armando] Broja, also, and the he moved to Fulham, wanting to play more. Yes, he is doing fantastic. He is doing an amazing job for the team – running, scoring goals and giving assists.’

‘In his first season, a young guy coming from Spain, even with not much experience there, I think he is doing fantastic. The players here [want] to match the iconic players here like [Didier] Drogba. If we compare [Jackson] with Drogba, yes he is always going to lose, but if we split the history of the club from the team and the performance of Jackson, I think he is doing fantastic.’

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‘We were talking yesterday – he was tired, more than he normally is because the team wanted to win and all of the players wanted to go to the final. But he is young, he needs to live this type of situation to improve. The whole team today is much better.’

‘Even if he doesn’t score, the way he is fighting for the club, fighting for his teammates, for the team and producing sometimes chances. He needs time to improve. He is going to be better next season, for sure. There is no doubt about that. He only needs to keep going,’ Pochettino concluded.

Criticism of Jackson’s performance on social media was scattered with racial abuse too though, and Pochettino acknowledged that ‘people hide behind social media and that is why it is not a reference. We always talk about that, that it is not a reference.’

‘Of course, we need to be there in social media because it is a good way to communicate with the fans, the good fans, the good people that want to know about us.’

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‘But [there are] other people who hide behind social media. The most important thing is to be strong and to know that it is not a reference for what people think of you.’

Pochettino’s men weren’t the only Chelsea team in semifinal action on Saturday – Emma Hayes guided the club’s women’s team to a first-ever victory over Barcelona in the first leg of their UEFA Women’s Champions League semifinal.

Commenting ahead of the second leg at Stamford Bridge this weekend, Pochettino wished the team ‘all the best. I’m so happy for Emma, all of the coaching staff and the players. We were watching the game before our game at Wembley.’

‘[The first leg win brings back] good memories because when I was in Espanyol, I started my career as a coach in Montjuïc, the Olympic Stadium and they were playing there. Beating Barcelona was fantastic but now the second leg is going to be tough here. I hope they can keep the same result and go through to the final. All the best to Emma, all of the coaching staff and the players.’