Mauricio Pochettino has found the perfect blueprint for Chelsea’s success in Cole Palmer. Palmer’s impact on the team has been immediate and significant, and it is evident that he has quickly become an essential and irreplaceable part of the Chelsea squad. His introduction has resulted in an increase in goals and improved results, with the exception of the game against Brentford, where he was still an outstanding player.
What sets Palmer apart is his remarkable impact despite his limited experience, especially for a 21-year-old player of his caliber. To illustrate, Palmer has already provided more assists than Joao Felix managed during his six-month loan spell at Chelsea. Palmer’s two goals, though both from penalties, are complemented by a remarkable xA (expected assists) of 2.0, which is four times greater than what Felix achieved in half the playing time.
Upon Palmer’s arrival at Chelsea, there were questions about how he would fit into the squad given the abundance of wingers signed over the previous year. However, he has made himself indispensable to the team. Pochettino recently praised Palmer’s performance, stating that he plays like someone who has been with the club for a decade, and the fans have recognized his impact with standing ovations.
Palmer has not only raised the level of his teammates but also contributed significantly to the team’s overall quality. Although the team’s finishing has sometimes been inconsistent, Palmer has already established himself as a genuine star.
Palmer’s influence on the team and the stadium’s atmosphere when he is on the ball or creating chances is reminiscent of Juan Mata’s impact. Both players share a left-footedness that allows them to cut inside from the right flank and find teammates in unexplored areas.
While it’s still early days for Palmer, it’s clear that his start has been strong, and he has quickly become a reliable player for Chelsea. His performance against Brentford demonstrated the team’s reliance on him, and it was unfortunate that his performance went to waste in that particular defeat.
In the months ahead, Palmer will have the opportunity to share the workload with Christopher Nkunku, who is expected to return in December. The two players can lean on each other, and Nkunku’s star power will help alleviate some of the pressure and attention on Palmer. Combining both players will present a formidable challenge to opposing teams.
Palmer’s versatility, honed by his training under Pep Guardiola and his time in the England youth setup, allows him to play various attacking roles. He can operate on the right-wing, as a shadow striker, a false nine, or in the hole, providing the team with flexibility and unpredictability. This flexibility enables him to drift into different areas on the field and actively press when the team loses possession.
Although Palmer has played in multiple positions, his role on the right-wing appears to suit him best. This position allows one of the midfield trio to push forward, typically Conor Gallagher, without overcrowding the frontline, giving Palmer the space and freedom to showcase his skills.
Nkunku has been deployed similarly, favoring the left side but demonstrating effectiveness in various roles. Their ability to seamlessly adapt to different positions makes them a well-suited duo. Their natural fluidity when moved around the field bodes well for Chelsea.
Notably, Chelsea has achieved significant victories with Palmer in the lineup, particularly in games against Burnley, Fulham, and Blackburn, where he has scored a goal and provided three assists while primarily playing on the right. While it’s still too early to draw definitive conclusions, it’s becoming increasingly tempting to imagine the exciting partnership between Palmer and Nkunku.