Although the final international break of 2023 has only just come to a close the attention is not only turning towards the return of the Premier League but also further down the line. It is just over five weeks now until the January transfer window opens and clubs in England can do business once more.

Chelsea have been one of the busier teams in recent years, especially last season, as they seek to improve their squad and rise up the league table. Unlike this time 12 months ago whereby serious amendments were needed on the group it is more a case of giving the current crop under Mauricio Pochettino time.

That isn’t going to stop them from flexing their financial muscles in the winter though with the need for a striker and the subsequent desire to fill the hole being clear. Even after signing Nicolas Jackson and Christopher Nkunku over the summer the club are focusing their attention on a new No.9.

When January does roll around there will be added impetus on strengthening the area as well. On January 13 Jackson will be away with Senegal as his country attempt to defend their African Cup of Nations title. In 2021, when Senegal lifted the trophy after beating Egypt on penalties, Jackson was a long way from being at Chelsea.

The 22-year-old was yet to make his La Liga debut in Spain, something he only achieved last term. It wasn’t until August 2022 that he became a fixture in the side and until April of this year there was very little fanfare around him.

Bournemouth came close to signing him in January but a two month injury lay-off put that to bed. Once he returned his results have been mightily impressive. Jackson scored nine times in the final eight games of the season with two assists and earned himself a surprise move to Stamford Bridge.

For £30million he was the less glamorous name to arrive with Nkunku also joining but the inexperienced forward made an instant impact. He netted twice in pre-season and also laid on three assists in that time, dove-tailing with Nkunku, Mykhailo Mudryk and Chelsea’s other attackers.

Since Nkunku’s injury that ruled him out for the opening four months of the season it has been down to Jackson to lead the line. His constant pressing and hassling of defenders has gained him praise but despite four goals in his last two games before the break he is still underperforming xG by over two goals.

Jackson is yet to register an assist for his teammates and until recent weeks was lacking confidence as he missed key chances on a weekly basis, growing more and more isolated. The hat-trick away at Tottenham changed much of the perception around him and with 10 starts in 12 league games – he was suspended for the 2-0 win over Fulham before coming off the bench one game later against Burnley – the workload has been challenging.

What he has shown, however, is an adaptability and development to his game, scoring a true striker’s goal in the draw with Manchester City. It is this that Chelsea will have to replace for what could be up to five weeks between January 13 and February. Senegal will go into AFCON as one of the favourites again but it will leave Pochettino with a hole to fill.

Many will point to Nkunku to come in and hit the ground running but this is a player that has suffered three medium to long-term injuries in 18 months and is yet to play a Premier League match, that’s quite the expectation on his shoulders. Meanwhile Armando Broja has not proven himself capable yet of sustaining fitness for long enough to fulfil his potential, though there is certainly evidence to suggest that when he does get going he will be hard to stop.

In all though Jackson’s absence just adds to the likiness that a serious offer is made for Ivan Toney. The 27-year-old cannot play until January 24 due to a ban from football but given there could still be three weeks without Jackson to come after this there is certainly still sense to going hard.

Toney is a player in demand and understands that a bid is already under consideration at Chelsea with Arsenal also in the mix. There are question marks over his own arrival though.

At Brentford Toney has excelled and does look ready to take the step up but in January and with a huge price tag on his head – the Bees are quoting £100million publicly but even a more stomachable £60million would be a big sum – there is pressure. Toney would be a gamble having not proven himself at an elite club and with the competition already at Chelsea there is a pathway plan to take into account.

The last thing Chelsea will want to do is have talks over a move for Toney go on deep into the window with Jackson away and no certainty over when he will be back in for selection. Ideally the club would be able to get him through the door early and then have him integrate whilst Jackson is away and build towards a debut at the end of the month.

Chelsea will know of Jackson’s already expected call-up for the tournament by January 3, 10 days before the tournament begins. It is a 23-man squad that can be named and with appearances in the last three named by Aliou Cisse there is good reason to plan ahead for his absence.

Whether or not something happens with Toney is much less clear but if it does Chelsea have great incentive to get it over the line sooner rather than later.

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