New Telegraph

Palmer, Pochettino Agree On Big Chelsea Surprise

Since joining Chelsea, Cole Palmer has played in the Premier League for almost twice as many minutes.

At the age of 21, he is not the Bukayo Saka or Raheem Sterling of old,  the young wonder with thousands of minutes on his record; instead,  like the others, he was signed based on promise and talent.

But after just three Chelsea starts, he has already established himself as one of the team’s most important players.

After coming on as a substitute, Palmer watched his teammates go without a goal in his first three games, but he quickly turned that around after being given an opportunity right away.

Currently, he is the second-highest goalscorer and top assister with fewer than 500 minutes played in a blue shirt. It speaks volumes about the immediate quality he has brought along with the rest of the team’s carelessness. Palmer acknowledged, “It has surprised me a bit but I know my own ability,” while travelling abroad for England Under-21 play.

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Palmer, like many of the Chelsea squad, are more suited to age-group football currently due to being between the age of 18 and 23. He has never played more than 500 league minutes in an adult season yet and has seen his development somewhat stunted.

Alongside Noni Madueke, Carney Chukwuemeka and even Armando Broja, Mykhailo Mudryk and some of the midfielders in the squad, Palmer is inexperienced and finding his feet.

For Mauricio Pochettino it has been a relief that the former Manchester City academy graduate has adapted so well.

“And I knew that if I hit the ground running I’d have a chance and obviously make an impact. That’s why I went there,” he added. “I thought I could break in. I looked at the squad and there are a lot of players who went, not as many as people would have thought in terms of attackers.

“It’s been hectic but that’s good, moving down there was a big change. I was in a hotel for a couple of weeks and then I got my own place. It is new and difficult, I don’t know how to do most things on my own so I’m learning.”

Palmer now has the burden of expectation on his shoulders after scoring or assisting in three straight games, the type of output he would get on Under-21 or youth football. Having joined up with a team out of confidence and no previous knowledge of winning together, he has knitted together layers of talent and promise into a more cohesive unit.

It is too much to expect him to continue at this pace for the entire season but it has already partially justified why Chelsea spent over £40million on a player with fewer minutes than 19-year-old Lewis Hall and without a Premier League goal at the time, he opened his account against Burnley with a penalty on Saturday.

Palmer’s versatility means that no matter how much competition he faces, be it Raheem Sterling or Christopher Nkunku, there will be a role for him if he is playing at the required level.

For Pochettino, seeing him hit his stride so quickly has come ahead of time.

“He is a very talented player and he has the quality and he surprised me when I arrived,” said the manager last week. “It was the day before the transfer window closed. The way he reads the situations and what the team needs in every situation, he can be the player who can link with his team-mates.

“He is still very very young but with great personality and he has the talent and the quality which we see today.”

Since Palmer’s introduction to the team Chelsea has scored seven times in three games, accounting for more than half of their league goals. The best part is that they firmly believe the best is still to come.

“I think he fits the project,” his boss explained when he arrived. “He is a young, talented player. Of course, he decided to come because he expects to play maybe more and be more important here [than at Manchester City], but that is not the most important thing.

He wanted to come because he has seen the Chelsea project is for him.
“He wants to improve his game and he needs to show he is better than his team-mates and deserves to play and find his place.”

Now he has found his place and earned a spot in the side, something he was never able to do under Pep Guardiola. The next thing to tackle for him is dealing with the pressures of being at Chelsea and the inconsistency that comes with a young playing group.

“Most people are going [to] give you criticism no matter what you do anyway but don’t get me wrong, we do need to win more games,” Palmer explained. “I agree with the fans when they say stuff like that.

“They just see the outside point of view. Obviously, no-one knows what goes on day-to-day and how many new changes there are. Everyone is so young to the project, we just need to try to win some trophies to get Chelsea back to where they were.

“There’s pressure because you’re playing for Chelsea but everyone knows how it is within the club. We have to go out with no fear.”

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