Pochettino reviews Chelsea's win over Tottenham
As Chelsea walked away with a massive 4-1 result over Tottenham on Monday night, there were not many players who came away with praise after a strangely subdued performance from Mauricio Pochettino’s men against their nine-man opponents. But Cole Palmer, who once again shone as their best player on the pitch, is becoming difficult to ignore after the winger’s composed display amongst the chaos in this London derby – to the point where Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola might even regret selling him.
As Spurs lost Cristian Romero and Destiny Udogie to red cards, as well as Micky van de Ven and James Maddison to injury, it was in Chelsea’s hands to take the game by the scruff of its neck. But even with a two-man advantage, the absence of leaders on the pitch, aside from 39-year-old Thiago Silva, was palpable.
That was until Romero conceded a penalty for a desperate lunge on Enzo Fernandez inside his own box. Unlike two games ago against Arsenal, there was no argument from Raheem Sterling this time as Palmer took the ball confidently to place it on the penalty spot.
With the chance to level the score at 1-0 and at a crucial point in the match, Palmer could have been forgiven for feeling the heat. Yet, in front of a 60,000-strong crowd who were whistling and jeering at a deafening level, the attacking midfielder had ice in his veins as his effort squeezed past Guglielmo Vicario and in off the post.
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Even as Chelsea struggled to back down the determined Spurs players that remained on the pitch, Palmer was efficient with the ball and his assist for Nicolas Jackson’s third goal of the night, perhaps lost amongst the hubbub, was something Kevin De Bruyne would have been proud of.
Then, in his post-match interview, Palmer showcased a maturity beyond his 21 years with some advice for Nicolas Jackson. The Senegalese might have been flying high after his hat-trick at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, but Palmer showed how Guardiola’s pursuit of perfectionism has rubbed off on him by demanding more from his team-mate, who is two years his senior.
Speaking of Jackson, Palmer told Sky Sports: “It’s been a difficult start for him, no hiding it, but he was brilliant tonight. He just needs to keep his head down and work harder in training and he will get many more hat-tricks.”
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The interviewer, taken aback by the comment, then replied: “You say work harder?”, to which Palmer replied: “Of course. You can always work harder.”
Watching Palmer flourish again in the Chelsea team from the right might lead some to question just how they were able to acquire him for £40m, a fairly modest figure in the transfer market for an English talent. And it’s something Mauricio Pochettino might be able to hold over Pep Guardiola for some time if he continues to impress.
Guardiola used Palmer regularly during pre-season, leading to optimism from City fans he would feature more after Riyad Mahrez left for Saudi Arabia. But in crunch talks with Guardiola this summer, Palmer wanted to know how often he would be playing. According to TeamTalk, he City tactician refused to offer any guarantees of first-team football and told the midfielder he would have to go elsewhere if he wanted regular minutes – and now he has.
It is likely that the Catalan expected Palmer to move to a mid-table club at such an early age in his career, rather than risk moving to another top-six club where the idea of regular football was anything but guaranteed. But his transition from a benchwarmer at the Etihad to a leading playmaking role at Chelsea has been highly impressive.
Any tinge of regret Guardiola might have had has been balanced with the success of his own signing, £52m winger Jeremy Doku, who registered an incredible four assists and a goal in the 6-1 thrashing of Bournemouth. Still, to see Palmer thriving at Chelsea may sting a little; not many get away from Guardiola without first being discarded by him.
But the opportunity to play under Pochettino clearly gave him enough hope he could forge a career away from his hometown club. And ahead of facing his former club on Sunday, City’s loss is most certainly looking like Chelsea’s gain.
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