Pochettino to implement his fantastic Cole Palmer strategy against Tottenham
Cole Palmer has immediately become a fan favourite at Chelsea following his summer move from Manchester. Spending £40million on a player with just 489 minutes of Premier League football was initially scoffed at, however in just a few months, Palmer has proven that the Blues may have actually struck a bargain.
After years spent under the guidance of Pep Guardiola, Palmer struggled to match the breakthrough of Phil Foden and he was thus subjected to a number of cameo appearances. However, with Riyad Mahrez departing this past summer, Palmer finally looked set for his breakout season at Etihad Stadium with that epitomised by his two goals even before the Premier League season had started against Sevilla and Arsenal in the UEFA Super Cup and Community Shield, respectively.
Palmer even began the Premier League season with Man City before Chelsea made a shock enquiry to sign him on a permanent deal that was clearly too good to turn down for the reigning champions. And as such Palmer made the switch to Stamford Bridge with the clear task of helping the Blues in the attacking department amid injuries to Christopher Nkunku and Carney Chukwuemeka.
Following a number of appearances from the bench, Palmer started the 2-0 London derby win over Fulham which kicked off Chelsea’s mini-resurgence. He then retained his place against Burnley marking it with his first Premier League goal with that tally then doubled two weeks later in the 2-2 draw against Arsenal.
Understandably, given his good form, Palmer started the recent clash with Brentford which saw the Blues’ four-game unbeaten streak come to an end. But, Perhaps the most impressive thing about those four displays is the fact Palmer played in three different positions.
Against Fulham and Burnley, he played at right-wing with Pochettino then using him in a false nine role against Arsenal, all before giving him creative duties to play at No.10 against the Bees. His versatility will likely be a huge asset to Chelsea over the coming seasons and that trait should be utilised against Tottenham by Pochettino with a role for Palmer that will cause Tottenham numerous problems.
In Spurs’ recent win over Crystal Palace, they were without left-back Destiny Udogie, with Ben Davies initially starting before he was brought off at half time for Emerson Royal. The Italy international picked up his injury in the victory against Fulham and Postecoglou has now admitted his availability to face Chelsea is unclear.
On Thursday, he said: “Destiny is still working his way through it – we haven’t ruled him out [of the Chelsea game] yet – obviously we’ve still got a few days up our sleeves. That’s probably 50-50 at this stage as to whether he’ll be available.” With Postecoglou admitting Udogie is a doubt, returning Palmer to the right-wing role should be the chosen plan.
Firstly, Emerson does not offer the same level of control or defensive solidity as Udogie and therefore if Chelsea can isolate palmer one-on-one he should be able to win his individual battle. Secondly, if Udogie is passed fit there is a high chance either his match sharpness won’t be at its peak or he will still be carrying the some remnants of his knock which Palmer can exploit.
While he has shined in two central roles, Pochettino has already explained why he likes Palmer out wide so much. “Cole Palmer is also a good player who links with his teammates,” he said after his two performances against Fulham and Burnley. “We are giving him the starting position on the right but we give him the freedom to play between the lines because he’s ready to read what the team needs and to be unpredictable because football is a game that is unpredictable and he has the capacity to be like this.”
Palmer playing on the right would allow the midfield three of Conor Gallagher, Enzo Fernandez and Moises Caicedo to return with Raheem Sterling off the left as Mykhailo Mudryk appears unlikely to start. Nicolas Jackson was handed a fair share of criticism for his performance against Brentford, but having a vocal point to lead the press could be key at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Postecoglou’s side will play out from the back and are likely to dominate the ball, so if Jackson can capitalise on any mistakes or wayward passes, Palmer and Sterling, arguably as the club’s two best finishers, will be in the right place at the right time to make their London rivals pay.
Defensively, Pochettino faces a dilemma with Reece James after he played 61 minutes against Blackburn Rovers on Wednesday. The remaining three spots pick themselves with Levi Colwill accompanying Thiago Silva in the middle of defence and Marc Cucurella starting at left-back. The final decision will likely be made between James, Malo Gusto and Axel Disasi depending on how Pochettino wishes to attack the game.