Mauricio Pochettino can use Cole Palmer to solve two Chelsea problems ahead of Christopher Nkunku return injury
Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino will have taken numerous positives from the 2-2 Premier League draw with Arsenal despite the end result. The Blues were in total control against their London rivals after Cole Palmer and Mykhailo Mudryk found the back of the net before two late goals resulted in the points being shared.
For close to 75 minutes, not only were Chelsea leading but they were also dominating the Gunners with the midfield battle at Stamford Bridge comfortably being won by the hosts until Mikel Arteta changed his side’s approach. After Declan Rice capitalised on a Robert Sanchez mistake in the 77th minute, the momentum immediately shifted with Leandro Trossard bagging the equaliser seven minutes later.
While letting a two-goal lead slip will come as a worry for Pochettino, there were some excellent performers on the night that will give the Chelsea boss plenty of confidence going forward. One of those was £40million summer signing Cole Palmer, deployed in a false 9 role, with Armando Broja out injured and Nicolas Jackson only fit enough for a spot on the bench after undergoing minor surgery on his wrist.
After scoring from the penalty spot in the early knockings, Palmer caused the Arsenal defence a significant number of problems with the job Pochettino tasked him with being revealed. “I found out the day before I was going to be playing as a false nine, sort of in the right pocket,” said the England Under-21 international. “I spoke to the manager, he told me what he wanted from me, and I believed I could do it because I’ve played there before. So I just tried to get in the pockets, turn and play well.”
Then, on how he managed to help break Arsenal down, Palmer added: “We just tried to drop down, bring them high so we could play in behind if they went man-for-man. But we did struggle to play out a bit. We both did, I think we cancelled each other out quite well. It was a good game and we could have come away with three points.”
Although both of his goals for Chelsea have been from 12 yards, Palmer has showcased that he can play in a number of positions for the Blues with a creative role certainly in his repertoire. In an attempt to unlock the Arsenal defence, Palmer dropped deep into the pockets where he was able to pick up the ball and thread a delightful pass between Oleksandr Zinchenko and William Saliba that perfectly found the feet of the onrushing Raheem Sterling.
In the 4-1 over Burnley, it was from a Palmer pass that Nicolas Jackson scored Chelsea’s fourth and his movement and through ball against the Gunners has further shown the impact he can from a creative perspective. That will likely come as a great joy to Christopher Nkunku as another versatile player able to score a handful of goals and also create from deep.
Having Palmer and Nkunku in the same starting XI could be extremely beneficial if the duo are able to continuously interchange positions on the pitch until the Blues sign a natural and world class striker. Ivan Toney and Victor Osimhen are two options, but as Pep Guardiola has proven at Manchester City before signing Erling Haaland, not having an outright goal scorer is certainly not a bad thing.
Nkunku is expected to make his return for Chelsea in late 2023 or early 2024 with his latest return message coming as a boost to Pochettino. On Instagram, the Frenchman is shown working in the gym building strength in his knee with a mobility exercise which sees Nkunku balanced between two platforms at different heights.