Palmer sparkles to boost Pochettino and leave Guardiola with regrets

Chelsea forward Cole Palmer has emerged as one of the Premier League’s brightest young stars to ease the pressure on Mauricio Pochettino and leave Pep Guardiola ruing what might have been.

Palmer is enjoying a breakthrough season after his surprise move from Manchester City on transfer deadline day last September.

The 21-year-old’s latest highlight came on Monday when he played the decisive role in Chelsea’s much-needed 3-2 win against Newcastle at Stamford Bridge.

Palmer teed up Nicolas Jackson for Chelsea’s first half opener when his shot was flicked in by the Senegal striker.

After Newcastle’s Alexander Isak equalised, it was Palmer who stepped up to restore the lead with a superb finish for his 13th goal in all competitions for Chelsea.

Given license to roam from his nominal starting position on the right of Chelsea’s front three, Palmer has scored and assisted in five different league games, a feat unmatched by anyone else in the Premier League in the current campaign.

He has been directly involved in 19 goals this season and is Chelsea’s top scorer.

Palmer’s emergence as their most influential player has been one of the only bright spots in a gloomy season for beleaguered Blues boss Pochettino.

The Argentine has struggled to create a cohesive unit from a disparate collection of players thrown together over the last two years in Chelsea co-owner Todd Boehly’s £1 billion ($1.2 billion) spending spree.

Even after beating Newcastle, they are still languishing in 11th place with only faint hopes of qualifying for a European competition.

The recent 1-0 defeat against Liverpool in the League Cup final heaped further pressure on Pochettino, who has endured calls for his sacking from frustrated Chelsea fans.

– ‘It’s only going to get better’ –

Fortunately for Pochettino, he has Palmer’s full support.

“The fans don’t see it, but the way the manager works us on the pitch, the things he does with us, it’s only going to get better,” he said.

“It’s a project and everyone’s young. We will see it sooner or later.”

Another virtuoso Palmer display in Sunday’s FA Cup quarter-final against Leicester would surely keep alive Pochettino’s hopes of winning his first silverware in England.

It might also remind Guardiola of the controversial decision that could come back to haunt the Manchester City manager.

Eye-catching goals for City in the Community Shield against Arsenal and the UEFA Super Cup against Sevilla seemed to cement Palmer as a certainty to follow in Phil Foden’s footsteps as a homegrown prodigy in Guardiola’s team.

But Palmer was reportedly pressing for more playing time in a side already packed with attacking talent and, unable to guarantee that wish, Guardiola accepted Chelsea’s £42 million bid.

City fans were shocked and it could be argued the move has backfired.

While City are still in the hunt for a second successive treble, they sit third in the Premier League — one point behind leaders Arsenal — in part because of the injuries sustained by Kevin de Bruyne and Erling Haaland.

De Bruyne missed the first half of the season with a hamstring problem, while Haaland was sidelined for two months due to a foot issue.

Palmer would have been a more than adequate replacement for both as a scorer and creator, potentially helping City to another vital win or two in their title defence.

Instead, it was Palmer who robbed City of two important points with his last-gasp penalty in the 4-4 draw between the teams in November.

The England international’s brilliant form has also put him firmly in contention for a place in Gareth Southgate’s squad for Euro 2024.

With Southgate watching the Newcastle game in person, Palmer said: “If you’d told me at the start of the season I had a chance of going to the Euros I wouldn’t have believed you.”

If Palmer’s Euro dream comes true, Pochettino might be sitting more comfortably, while Guardiola is left with only regrets.


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