Nobody has scored more goals for Chelsea in the Premier League this season than Cole Palmer. While the young attacking midfielder arrived at Stamford Bridge in the summer as a player for the future, he has quickly become the Blues’ most reliable difference-maker in the present. Not many have shone for Chelsea this season, but Palmer is the exception.
The 21-year-old is performing at such a high level Manchester City surely feel some regret over their decision to let him leave. Of course, Pep Guardiola has several world class options in midfield and attack, but in his current form Palmer would have made his mark for the Treble winners.
Tactically and stylistically, Palmer would have been a good fit for City this season. He was coached by Guardiola from a young age and that is evident in the technical ability he possesses, but also in his awareness of space on the pitch and how to use it. Palmer might not wear a Chelsea shirt, but he is very much a Manchester City player in terms of how he plays the game.
Confidence is flowing through Palmer, as demonstrated by his Man of the Match performance against Luton Town in which he scored twice and assisted another. Chelsea might be struggling for results and consistency this season, but their summer signing is growing with almost every game he plays at the moment. The way he’s going, Palmer will be at Euro 2024 too.
At Chelsea, Palmer has slotted in on the right side of the attack. From that area he can push into central midfield where overloads are created with space opened up down the right flank for the full back – usually Reece James – pushing forward. Mauricio Pochettino has built his attack around Palmer on this basis.
Guardiola could have done similar with Palmer at City. They too like their wide player on the right to come inside and link up with the central midfielders. Bernardo Silva has performed that role for the defending Premier League champions this season with Phil Foden also used in this manner by Guardiola. Palmer would have been somewhere in this pecking order.
“In the position that he [Palmer] plays, and because he’s a left-footer and because he has some similarities and the quality, he’s a potential Angel Di Maria,” Pochettino said when asked to compare Palmer to another player. He [Palmer] has the capacity and the potential to be close to him, with time. He’s still far away, but this type of player that can link, can be a playmaker, have the capacity to score, assist, it’s this type of player like Angel.”
City’s decision to sell Palmer wasn’t purely made on footballing reasons. The £40m transfer fee received for the 21-year-old, who came through the youth academy at the Etihad Stadium, was put down on the club’s balance sheet as pure profit which helped keep Manchester City on the right side of Financial Fair Play.
With this taken into account, Palmer’s summer switch to Chelsea might be the rare case of a transfer that worked out for everyone concerned. Manchester City are fighting on several fronts for silverware once again, Chelsea have a player to build around for years to come and Palmer has found the regular game time he wanted.
On the other hand, Palmer is a player who Manchester City moulded and coached into the player he is today. That player has flourished into one of the best in the Premier League, but for another club. Even as City are dominating English and European football while collecting trophies for fun, that has to hurt.