Could Ivan Toney Be the Answer to Lifting Chelsea’s Number 9 Curse?


Following an abysmal 2022-23 Premier League campaign that saw Chelsea finish 12th, their lowest position since the 1993-94 season, every Blues fan knew the team was crying out for a number nine that could score 20+ goals in a season. Chelsea only scored 38 goals during the season; only four teams scored fewer, and one of those, Southampton, were relegated.

Chelsea spent big on recruiting Nicolas Jackson and Christopher Nkunku in the summer, yet still went into the 2023-23 Premier League season without a number nine, with only Albania’s Armando Broja as the club’s only recognized out-and-out striker. Although Mauricio Pochettino’s men have scored 34 goals in the first 20 league fixtures, it is evident the Argentinan needs a proper number nine to lead the line if Chelsea are to mount a late surge for a European place.

Not Turning Chances Into Goals

The latest 2024 Premier League betting odds price Chelsea as 16/1 to finish in the top four this season, making them the eighth favorite in that market. Being 12 points behind fourth-placed Arsenal is the main reason for the bookies’ lack of confidence in Chelsea’s Champions League quest, but the fact the team is struggling in front of goal, despite regularly dominating opponents, is playing a significant role.

Remove the glut of goals in November when our boys beat Tottenham Hotspur 4-1, drew 4-4 with Manchester City, and came out on top 3-2 against Brighton, and we have scored only 27 goals in 17 games, or 1.59 goals per game. Chelsea is eighth in the goals for charts but fourth in the popular xG column. That, in itself, tells its own story.

The Curse of the Number Nine Shirt

Football fans and players can be superstitious, and that is the case regarding the infamous Chelsea number nine shirt. Throughout history, Chelsea has had a star striker who would slot straight into any other top-flight team. However, during the Premier League era, several players, most bought for significant sums, have failed under the weight of the iconic shirt.

The likes of Fernando Torres, Rademel Falcao, Alvaro Morata, Gonzalo Higuain, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Romelu Lukaku have all donned the number nine shirt following big-money moves and failed to light up Stamford Bridge. If such a thing exists, the curse has extended to the current campaign, with the Blues not registering the number nine jersey. New signings Nicolas Jackson and Christopher Nkunku opted to wear 15 and 18, respectively, which were the shirt numbers they wore for their previous clubs.

Jackson and Nkunku Are Not the Answer to Chelsea’s Woes

Nobody can accuse Todd Boehly of being tight with his money. If anything, Boehly has been spending too much cash with a scattergun approach. Boehly’s approach is akin to someone playing Ultimate Team on FIFA or EA Sports FC as it is now known. The American billionaire and his team spent a combined £84 million on Jackson and Nkunku, but they are not the answer to Chelsea’s striker woes.

Jackson was bought for £32 million on the back of a hot run of form at the end of last season. He scored 11 of his 12 La Liga goals for Villarreal in the final 12 games of the campaign. Sure, Jackson has seven goals in 19 Premier League fixtures so far, but three of those came in one game, leaving him with four goals in 18 with that almost freak performance taken out of the equation. The cheers often ring out among the Stamford Bridge faithful when Pochettino hauls off Jackson is a damning evaluation of the young Senegalese’s current ability.

It is too early to tell if Nkunku will shine in our famous blue strip because injuries have kept him on the sidelines for all but four games. However, Nkunku is not a number nine in the traditional sense. In fact, according to Transfermarkt, Nkunku has never played as an out-and-out striker, spending most of his career deployed as an attacking midfielder or a second striker. Why invest £52 million on a player who plays his best football when feeding off a number nine when you don’t have one in your squad? It is baffling.

Is Toney The Missing Piece of the Jigsaw?

Ivan Toney could be the answer to all of Chelsea’s problems. Toney has been one of the deadliest strikers in recent years. After scoring 24 goals in 32 games in League One for Peterborough United, Toney stepped up to the Championship with Brentford, where 31 goals and ten assists in 45 games helped Brentford reach the Premier League. Many people wondered if Toney could do a job in the Premier League, and he answered his critics with 12 goals and five assists in 33 games in a struggling Bees team.

Toney is fast and strong, loves putting himself about, and is a complete nightmare for opposition defenders. Add to the fact he is prolific in front of goal, has only ever missed two penalties during his entire career, and will be raring to go after his 11-month suspension for breaching betting laws. You have someone who is a round peg for the gaping round hole in Chelsea’s attack. Not only all this but London rivals Arsenal are rumored to be interested in the England international, so pipping them to the post and acquiring Toney’s signature would be a major coup.

A significant stumbling block prevents a move for Toney: Brentford’s asking price. Media reports suggest the Bees have slapped a £100 million price tag on their prized asset, and every Blues fan is aware the club needs to make considerable sales to meet Profit and Sustainability rules before even considering forking out a nine-figure sum.

This is where Director of Football Laurence Stewart will earn his money, shipping out the players from the vast Chelsea squad to free up much-needed funds to secure Toney’s services. Would you be willing to let Conor Galagher go if it meant bringing in a player of Toney’s caliber?