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Outstanding Palmer should be in the Player of the Year conversation

On an individual basis at least, Cole Palmer’s first season at Chelsea could not have gone much better.

Palmer’s perfect performance against Everton on Monday night was the latest show in which the 21-year-old was the headline act. Four goals, including two stunning strikes, saw his star continue to rise as Chelsea secured a 6-0 win at Stamford Bridge to keep alive their European ambitions.

He has been the anomaly in Chelsea’s campaign. In a season full of inconsistency, he has been the constant: Goals, invention, skill and swagger.

 

Palmer’s first goal against Everton was a thing of beauty. A nutmeg to leave Jarrad Branthwaite on his backside, a neat interchange with Nicolas Jackson, and perfect placement into the far corner. It was the sort of strike that has become a trademark.

“The impact on the team was amazing from day one,” Pochettino said after the Everton win.

“We always expect the best with everyone we sign, so it has not surprised us. He was always the player with the capacity to score goals, even in Manchester City. But the way he adapted himself and the way he is playing and performing is fantastic. It is amazing for the team, amazing for him, and shows that the club made the right decision by signing him.”

That last sentence might just be the understatement of the season. Chelsea’s gamble on a player with just three Premier League starts before this season has been, amid a catalogue of questionable recruitment decisions, a brilliant one.

Palmer’s place on the plane for this summer’s European Championship is surely assured, but what else can he achieve before the end of the campaign? An FA Cup semi-final with his old employers is next up at the weekend, with the forward fresh from back-to-back hat-tricks at Stamford Bridge.

Manchester City will have known Palmer had potential when he was allowed to leave the Etihad last summer, though it’s clear that even the Citizens did not envisage this. His four-goal destruction of Everton saw Palmer move to 20 league goals for the campaign, level with the record-breaking Erling Haaland as the Premier League’s leading scorer. Before a ball was kicked this season, half that total would have been deemed an excellent first campaign in West London.

He has nine assists, for good measure, and has consistently been the bright spark in a Chelsea team that is fast revolving around him. The end-of-season accolades rarely go to players marooned in mid-table, and it’s been over a decade since the PFA award last went to a player who finished outside the top four. But in a campaign where there are no true standouts, is Palmer heading into the conversation?

Rodri’s irreplaceability at Manchester City makes him the favourite, while teammate Phil Foden is another frontrunner to add to the back-to-back Young Player awards won earlier in his career. Declan Rice’s impact at Arsenal has been evident, while Ollie Watkins’ role in Aston Villa’s top-four challenge should not be understated. Palmer, however, has done enough to at least warrant entry into the conversation.

 

There will be some that suggest standing out amid mediocrity is easier than in a team full of stars, though that argument does not always ring true. In a dysfunctional team, he has been delightful, carrying Chelsea on his young shoulders. His is a reputation rising with each performance.

Read – Palmer ‘buzzing’ after back-to-back Stamford Bridge hat-tricks

See more – Pochettino apologises for Chelsea penalty fiasco against Everton

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