Cole Palmer was never going to be a major part of a £1billion Chelsea plan to overhaul Manchester City. Instead, Pep Guardiola has simply done a number on the London club’s soccer-naive owners. Several numbers in fact, none of which quite add up.
So while the 21-year-old bought from Manchester City for £43million on transfer deadline day has impressed Chelsea fans with his performances in an otherwise stuttering start to the season, he won’t be able to prevent another three points leaking away from Stamford Bridge this weekend.
The raw data is encouraging. Two assists as well as his three goals give him more goal “involvements” than any other Chelsea player other than Monday night’s “tap-in hat-trick” hero Nicolas Jackson. With 31 shots at goal, he’s certainly trying.
He pressurises players more often than any of his team-mates and turns over possession more in the final third. But instead of bringing encouragement to Chelsea fans, Palmer’s presence will be just another reminder of how far Todd Boehly’s project is off the pace of where the club’s owners clearly felt they had a right to be.
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Here’s where the Americans’ “math” has fallen down.
2026: The very last figure on Cole Palmer’s Etihad contract. Yes, he was getting restless after showing the first green shoots for the season with goals in both the Community Shield and the European Super Cup. But with three years left on his contract there was absolutely no pressure on Guardiola to sell if he did not want to.
12: The only distance in yards that Palmer seems able to score from for Chelsea. Fair play to the youngster for grabbing the ball when so many of his decorated team-mates seem reluctant to take the penalty duties.
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His three-out-of-three conversion rate cannot be argued with, but the lack of goals from open play is symptomatic of a team that is too out-of-sorts to be able to carve out proper clear-cut opportunities.
15: More of a circumstantial number but given the circumstances are “coming into an international break” it is worth noting that Palmer has now played 15 times for the England under-21 team without warranting a single call-up to the first team. Gareth Southgate has made it his modus operandi to blood the youngsters so his continual blind eye towards Palmer is singular. It seems it is not just Guardiola who cannot quite bring himself to put his full faith in the player.
0: The ultimate number. The amount of players that Pep Guardiola has regretted selling during his time at Manchester City. Chelsea have Palmer because Guardiola could afford to let him go to a Premier League rival.
Why Chelsea let Manchester City have Matteo Kovacic, the perfect stand-in for the injured Kevin de Bruyne, for barely half as much is another question entirely.
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