“City’s boy is Chelsea’s man,” roared Peter Drury on Sky Sports commentary as Cole Palmer confidently sent home a last-minute penalty against his former employers on Sunday evening to grab a point for the Blues.
The goal was the 21-year-old’s fourth successful penalty in as many attempts since his £42.5million move to Stamford Bridge last summer and capped off another top performance in a darker shade of blue.
But Palmer’s goal contributions are just one example of his surprising development in London.
After a succession of money-spending in the transfer window, Chelsea’s Cobham training ground is an uneven collection of young players with plenty of potential desperate to impress. The final sessions before Mauricio Pochettino announces his matchday squad should resemble a trial in the Hunger Games.
But Palmer, who seems unfazed by any situation, has risen to the top. He is no longer someone to keep an eye on, but is a player who is already making a meaningful contribution to a top Premier League side.
Chelsea’s newest star Cole Palmer kept his nerve to convert a last-minute penalty against Manchester City, earning his side a point in Sunday’s thrilling 4-4 draw at Stamford Bridge.
Despite some concerns about competition for places at Chelsea, Palmer has quickly become a favorite under manager Mauricio Pochettino thanks to his footballing skills and personality.
City manager Pep Guardiola revealed that the young winger had rejected his offer for more playing time
Ahead of Sunday’s thrilling 4-4 draw against Manchester City, the Chelsea boss sought to temper hyperbolic predictions about the winger’s future, having previously compared him to former Real Madrid star and World Cup winner Angel Di Maria.
“He has the ability to be the playmaker who can connect with his teammates,” Pochettino told Sky Sports. ‘Very important for us in the way we want to play.
‘Not too much talk because we have to give time to learn and improve and see in a few years if he will be the great player we have seen.’
Palmer’s subsequent performance did little to detract from the high expectations. He told reporters after the match that he “doesn’t work on penalties” but just trusts his ability.
‘It was very strange because it is the first time I played against Manchester City.’ He said. ‘It was a long wait (to take the penalty), but I was confident. I’ve had a few now. I stayed focused. I won’t say I work on punishments, because I don’t. I just trust my abilities.’
The youngster made things even more special when he was involved in a playful incident with his former City teammates. Palmer had to be picked out of a huddle by Erling Haaland as he tried to steal crucial plans for their late free-kick.
Sunday’s penalty came a week after another perfect conversion from twelve yards, this time against Guglielmo Vicario, in Chelsea’s crazy 4-1 win over Tottenham.
In a match where the Blues oscillated between maddening and sublime, Palmer’s poise proved key to ultimately unlocking Spurs’ reckless nine-man defence.
He ended the tie with a goal and an assist to his name before accompanying hat-trick hero Nicolas Jackson, who benefited from one of his pin-point passes, to a post-match interview that was yet another demonstration of his unique perspective.
Palmer was spotted cheekily trying to listen in on Manchester City’s team talk on Sunday night
Erling Haaland quickly pushed his former teammate away from the Manchester City fray
“It was a tough start for him, I’m not hiding that, but he was brilliant tonight,” Palmer said of his teammate. ‘He just needs to keep his head down and work harder in training and he’ll get a lot more hat-tricks.’
The words tore straight out of the Handbook for experienced football playersnot often uttered by a 21 year old when talking about a colleague who is a year older than him.
Palmer’s football training with Guardiola’s treble winners in Manchester may provide some answers to why he has taken to living in London so easily. The youngster admitted this, saying: ‘It’s a lot harder at City, so when I went to Chelsea I thought I could break into the team.’
That non-nonsense approach proved key in his decision to leave the Etihad and has served him well at his new club.
“I’m not surprised he’s going to do well at Chelsea quickly,” former City Academy director Jason Wilcox, now director of football at Southampton, told The Mail on Sunday’s Joe Bernstein. ‘He is a quiet, languid man and people can misinterpret that. With a football eye you always saw the vision of the elite, the technical ability and the winning mentality.
‘He had to overcome challenges at City. There was a point where his teammates were growing faster than him and he found it physically difficult.
“We kept him in the Under-18s when his peers went to the U21s. That wasn’t easy for Cole, but he took it slow and adapted.
‘He has enormous courage on the field. He takes the ball and tries things. He responds well to pressure and is not influenced by the audience.’
Palmer’s calculation has proven correct. Not only has he become a first-team regular, but he has even wrestled control from senior teammates. Last month he went toe-to-toe with Raheem Sterling after Chelsea were awarded a penalty against Arsenal.
The youngster held off his more experienced colleague before keeping his cool to give the Blues a 15th minute lead against Mikel Arteta’s side in a match they eventually drew 2-2.
Fans were stunned to hear Palmer say his teammate Nicolas Jackson needed to work ‘harder’
Palmer and Raheem Sterling argued over who would take Chelsea’s penalty against Arsenal
Palmer has now started the last six Chelsea games and his inclusion in the squad has coincided with the Blues’ improved form. The record of those games reads; three wins, two draws – against Arsenal and City – and one defeat.
The performance was noted by England manager Gareth Southgate when he announced his squad on Thursday, but Monday brought news of his first senior call-up following an injury reshuffle.
The England boss could do a lot worse than signing an in-form player with experience of winning a European Championship for England, even if that would be at junior level.
After all, the Wythenshawe native was a crucial part of Lee Carsley’s side that claimed an historic victory in the final against Spain. And it was his strike – which hit the back of Curtis Jones – that separated the two sides in July.
Cole Palmer’s free-kick deflected off Curtis Jones and went wrong-footed for the Spanish goalkeeper during England’s 1-0 win in the U21 European Championship final
Gareth Southgate has handed the 21-year-old his first call-up to the England squad
Many thought the tournament would be an ideal platform for him to finally get regular minutes at the Etihad, especially after the departure of Riyad Mahrez and his goals in the Community Shield and UEFA Super Cup.
But Palmer wanted more. According to Guardiola, the youngster, who was not convinced by the manager’s guarantees during game time, informed him that he was keen to leave his hometown club.
City’s loss is really Chelsea’s gain. Pochettino has the youngest average squad in the division, stripped of legends and cult heroes from the club’s former glory. But in Palmer they have a player who is making a strong case to become one of the leaders.
Not only because of its quality, but also because of its ability to overcome every obstacle smoothly.
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