Unbeaten in their last four matches in all competitions, things finally appear to be looking up for Chelsea – with summer signing Cole Palmer a key figure in their recent revival.
Eyebrows were raised when the Blues opted to part with £42.5m to sign attacking midfielder Palmer from Manchester City on deadline day, but with every passing game this begins to look more and more like a shrewd investment.
Following a dismal start to the Premier League season which saw Chelsea win just one of their opening six matches, Mauricio Pochettino’s charges were in desperate need for fresh inspiration – with the introduction of Cole Palmer into the starting lineup seemingly providing just this.
Making his first start for Chelsea in their 1-0 home victory against Brighton in the EFL Cup at the end of last month, Palmer has retained his place in the side and the Blues are yet to taste defeat since.
In their last three Premier League matches – against Fulham, Burnley and Arsenal – Palmer has registered two goals and an assist with Chelsea picking up seven points from a possible nine to rise from the doldrums of the bottom half to 10th place in the table.
One of the best players on the pitch as Chelsea were held to a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge against London rivals Arsenal in the Blues’ last outing – scoring a first half penalty – Palmer’s performances are beginning to capture more and more attention with suggestions that Pep Guardiola’s Man City were perhaps a tad hasty in letting their academy graduate depart the Etihad.
We explore Palmer’s rise to prominence at Chelsea in full, taking a look back at his development at Man City and potential international future.
Born in Wythenshaw, Manchester, Palmer grew up supporting Man City and joined the club at under 8s level.
Progressing through every age group of City’s academy, Palmer made his first team debut aged 18 in a 3-0 win for Guardiola’s side against Burnley in the EFL Cup in September 2020.
Regarded from a young age as one of the most promising players in City’s youth ranks, he scored his first senior goal just under a year later in the same competition – notching in a 6-1 triumph for the Citizens against League One outfit Wycombe Wanderers at the Etihad.
From this point onwards, Palmer began to become integrated within the City first team, but found gametime difficult to come by with Riyad Mahrez and Bernardo Silva regularly utilised in his natural right wing position with the likes of Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden and Jack Grealish occupying the opposite flank.
His progress was further stunted by a foot injury which sidelined him for around three months at the start of 2022, with Palmer making just three Premier League starts for City in the past two seasons.
Following a standout Under 21s Euros tournament in the summer – with Palmer contributing four goal contributions as England were crowned champions – added to the fact Riyad Mahrez and Ikay Gundogan had exited the club, it appeared as if this season could finally be Palmer’s chance to fully break into the first team picture at City.
His performances in pre-season only added to this feeling, with Palmer scoring in both the Community Shield against Arsenal and UEFA Super Cup final against Sevilla.
However, it was not to be for Palmer at his boyhood team, with City opting to accept a substantial £42.5m bid from free-spending Chelsea on deadline day to see Palmer end his 14-year association with the club.
“He didn’t need to score two goals in two finals to make me realise how good he is.”
- Pep Guardiola
There was hope Palmer would follow Phil Foden in becoming a homegrown mainstay at the Etihad, but this did not materialise.
City’s loss has been Chelsea’s gain, with Palmer settling into life in a darker shade of blue in seamless fashion.
Palmer was made to wait for his first start for Chelsea by manager Pochettino, with the 21-year-old named as a substitute in three consecutive Premier League matches as Chelsea picked up just one point from meetings with Nottingham Forest, Bournemouth and Aston Villa.
An encouraging performance in his full debut in the EFL Cup against Brighton saw Palmer win a place in the side for Chelsea’s maiden Premier League victory of the campaign against Fulham at Craven Cottage, with the Englishman again impressing as the Blues ran out 2-0 winners.
It has been in Chelsea’s most recent two matches which Palmer has fully come to the fore, however, registering two goals and an assist in clashes with Burnley and Arsenal.
Starting on the right flank in the Blues’ impressive 4-1 dismantling of Burnley at Turf Moor, Palmer showed ice-cold composure to slot a penalty past James Trafford to put his side 2-1 up on the day, before showing his creative qualities to set up Nicolas Jackson’s fourth.
Palmer’s stock at Chelsea would elevate higher following his outstanding showing against Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal, with the Mancunian utilised by Pochettino as a false nine to great effect in an attempt to nullify the Gunners’ capacity to build their play out from the back.
The England Under 21st internationalist again showed composure to dispatch a pressure penalty to send the Blues in front, following a dispute with teammate Raheem Sterling over who should step up, with his all-round play in and out of possession contributing to a polished Chelsea performance.
At 6ft 2in, Palmer is deceptively tall for a player with a relatively slight build, and he possesses the delicate ball control and dribbling ability of a more diminutive figure.
Always appearing to find space in between the lines and make the correct decisions in the final third, Palmer has all the attributes you would expect to find 2from a member of Guardiola’s juggernaut of a Treble-winning squad.
He certainly appears to be relishing his new environment at Chelsea, and the added responsibility on the pitch which has come with his recent transfer.
“I’m loving it at Chelsea. Every day is good even off the pitch with the lads. There’s a good vibe and everything’s good, so I’m loving it.”
- Cole Palmer
Palmer penned a seven-year contract at Stamford Bridge in September, and wears the shirt number 20 for the club.
A memorable moment during Chelsea’s entertaining 2-2 draw against Arsenal came when the Blues’ summer recruit from Man City battled to win the ball from Gunners midfielder Jorginho next to the touchline, and earned an affectionate hug from his manager Pochettino for his troubles.
A clear indicator of the Argentine’s approval, Palmer looks primed to develop into a key player for the ex-Tottenham and PSG boss, who has had a hard task of establishing a settled team with so many players at his disposal following Chelsea’s unprecedented transfer expenditure of late.
A young, hungry and versatile operator, Palmer will tick a lot of boxes for Pochettino in spite of the Chelsea manager previously admitting it was not his choice to sign him – but rather that of the club’s board.
Renowned as one of the best coaches in the game at developing young players – with Pochettino having played a hugely influential role in the progress of Dele Alli and particularly Harry Kane during his time in charge at Tottenham – the new Blues boss has a clear remit to drive the growth of what is a very young squad at Stamford Bridge.
Palmer will be one of these projects, with other youthful big-money signings such as Moises Caicedo, Enzo Fernandez, Romeo Lavia and Mykhailo Mudryk also possessing vast potential if nurtured in the right way.
With the make-up of Chelsea’s midfield primed to revolve around the partnership of Caicedo and Fernandez for years to come, and wingers Sterling and Mudryk’s games revolving around their ability to hurt teams in behind, Palmer’s range of attributes could make him well suited to represent Chelsea’s clever glue guy who helps intelligently tie everything together in the final third.
“The way he reads the situations and the games, what the team needs in every situation, he can be the player who can link with his teammates.”
- Mauricio Pochettino
Premier League 2023/24 xG+xAG/90:
1) Mo Salah (Liverpool) - 1.28
2) Callum Wilson (Newcastle) - 1.18
3) Darwin Nunez (Liverpool) - 1.11
4) Erling Haaland (Man City) - 1.10
5) Alexander Isak (Newcastle) - 1.04
6) Cole Palmer (Chelsea) - 0.91
7) Bryan Mbeumo (Brentford) - 0.81
8) Bukayo Saka (Arsenal) - 0.78
9) Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa) - 0.75
10) Son Heung-min (Tottenham) - 0.74
Chelsea Premier League 2023/24 Shot-Creating Actions/90*:
1) Cole Palmer - 4.98
2) Raheem Sterling - 4.12
3) Enzo Fernandez - 3.94
4) Ben Chilwell - 3.21
5) Nicolas Jackson - 3.11
* - Only including players Minimum of 3 90s played (Minutes played divided by 90)
It’s not just Chelsea who could benefit from Palmer’s added first team exposure following his summer switch from the Etihad, with the mercurial midfielder also a potential asset for Gareth Southgate’s England.
Capped by his country from Under 15s level right the way through to the Under 21s who he claimed Euros glory with in the summer, Palmer is yet to receive his first senior call-up.
As a former England Under 21s manager himself, Southgate is a believer in the importance of blooding youth internationals into the senior setup and offering this platform for emerging players, and Palmer certainly fits the bill of a prospect who could follow this path.
The most recent England squad included defender Levi Colwill, who is not only a teammate of Palmer’s at Chelsea but played alongside him as part of the victorious Under 21s select in the Euros earlier this year.
Crystal Palace’s Marc Guehi, Arsenal’s Eddie Nketiah and another of Palmer’s Chelsea teammates – Conor Gallagher - are three other notable examples of players to have recently made the step up from the England Under 21s to the senior side.
It is important to acknowledge the level of competition in Palmer’s position, though, with the latest England squad featuring attacking midfielders of the ilk of Bukayo Saka, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, James Maddison, Marcus Rashford and Jarrod Bowen.
The fact Palmer’s Chelsea teammate Raheem Sterling - capped 82 times by the Three Lions – was let out of the latest England selection underlines how difficult it will be for the youngster to force his way in, especially given recent reports that the maximum squad size for next summer’s Euros in Germany is set to be cut from 26 to 23.
Should Palmer continue to light up the Premier League for Chelsea this season he could just put himself into Southgate’s thinking, however.
Stranger things have happened.
“His swag, the way he bowls around that pitch for a young kid. He’s the truth.”
- Rio Ferdinand
Total Premier League Goals:
10 or more - 5/6
15 or more - 8/1
20 or more - 25/1
To be named in final England EURO 2024 squad - 4/1
To Win Outright - 100/1
To Finish in Top 2 - 33/1
To Finish in Top 4 - 5/1
To Finish in Top 6 - 11/8
To Finish in Bottom Half - 8/1
Top London Club - 10/1
To Win FA Cup - 8/1
To Win EFL Cup -