Chelsea have spent an astonishing $1.6 billion on 25 players in three transfer windows since Todd Boehly took control of the club in 2022 – and the latest player on their books might just prove to be the best buy of all.
Cole Palmer kicked off the season as a Manchester City player – scoring a goal in the Community Shield against Arsenal and another in the UEFA Super Cup final – before opting to leave the sky blues for Chelsea on deadline day for £42.5m.
Finding his path to action blocked by City’s array of attacking talent, Palmer, 21, backed himself to join another big club with huge resources in London.
That total lack of self doubt was evident a few times on Monday when his ice cold penalty at the death gave Chelsea a point in a 4-4 draw.
Earlier he went on a weaving run through the City defence and just under hit his finish to allow Ederson a save. There was another cheeky moment where he sidled up to a City huddle as Jack Grealish was doling out some advice – only to be shoved away by a smiling former teammate Erling Haaland.
But it was his final act – smashing his nerveless penalty past Ederson – that brought the headlines and caught the eye of the competition’s greatest ever scorer, Alan Shearer.
“Can you imagine the pressure on the penalty, on him?” Shearer said on the BBC’s The Rest is Football podcast.
“Nearly the last kick of the game against his former club to get to get a point. There was no fear. The balls on him!
“Not arrogance, the confidence the belief to say give me the ball it’s, not a problem. He was calm as you like and what a unbelievable penalty it was.”
Earlier this season Palmer wrestled with veteran Raheem Sterling to take a penalty against Arsenal, which he then dispatched. There was no doubt who was taking Monday’s attempt and Palmer shrugged off the pressure afterwards, saying he didn’t bother practising spot kicks – just trusted his natural ability.
“I thought it was brilliant. I thought it was absolutely magnificent,” laughed Shearer.
Will City come to regret the transfer? Something similar was suggested last season when they sold Arsenal Gabriel Jesus and Alex Zinchenko and the Gunners surged to the top of the table. We all know how that turned out for City – and if they keep getting gifted the softest of penalties such as the one Haaland ‘won’ against Chelsea they’re going to be just fine – at least if the Premier League never gets around to holding them account for the 115 charges of rule breaking they’ve been accused of.
“This is not the right decision because VAR wasn’t looking at the start of the tussle, he’s got hold of his shirt which allows him to get in front and then he goes down. That’s not right,” said Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher – who just a week ago was hammering Mikel Arteta for complaining about VAR.
“It’s very harsh on Chelsea, VAR have only looked at the end of tussle. I think it’s harsh, I really do.”
The incident was the latest in a long line of shockers from former A-League referee Jarred Gillett – comfortably the competition’s worst VAR official on a long list of mediocre performers.
Former City defender Micah Richards meanwhile said he was “gutted” and “devastated” and that “I would never have sold him just because I’m I knew what he could do”- but added: “I think it was right for him because it’s not like he’s going to a team which are not going to challenge.
“He’s becoming the main man. He was never going to be the main man at Man City when you’ve got Foden and Doku and Grealish and Bernardo Silva and Alvarez.”
Poch loses the plot, briefly, while Mikel hands baton to De Zerbi
The final match before an international break really was magnificent and it was the first time since Liverpool 4, Arsenal 4 in 2009 that a Premier League match had featured four equalising goals.
The Haaland penalty aside, the focus was on the football rather than the refereeing – although Chelsea’s animated manager Mauricio Pochettino lost the plot at full time- storming onto the field to confront referee Anthony Taylor.
He was seemingly upset that the ref called up the game when his team was on the attack. Not that Marc Cucarella was threatening much running the ball out alone in his own half when the whistle sounded.
In his haste to berate Taylor, Poch neglected to shake Pep Guardiola’s hand.
Guardiola said: “It’s not a problem. I don’t want to say one word. It’s completely fine. The emotions happen to me sometimes. It’s fine.”
The Chelsea manager cooled quickly and later apologsed.
“I need to apologise to Anthony, the referees and the fourth official. In this moment, I feel that maybe Raheem can go through and go to score the fifth and in this moment when the game finishes I turn and say: ‘’What’s going on? I said: ‘Why stop in this moment, the action.’
“Then I turned and said “I deserve, I deserve to be booked.’ Because I crossed the limit, so I want to apologise because it’s not a good image for me and for football, this type of behaviour. I also want to apologise to Pep also because I did not see him in this moment.”
Arteta was also at pains to praise the refereeing in the Gunners’ 3-1 defeat of Burnley, despite having Fabio Vieira sent off for a studs up challenge. Arteta – a week on from his all-time ref rant after the robbery at St James’s Park wanted to spread a message of goodwill. “The referee was top, VAR was top. Put it everywhere,” he said.
But while Arteta put down his stick for a week, there’s always some manager ready to pick it up and give the refs a whack.
This week, Brighton’s Roberto De Zerbi was wading in after his team’s 1-1 draw with lowly Sheffield United.
Brighton had midfielder Mahmoud Dahoud sent off in the second half after which Sheffield equalised.
“I am honest and clear, I don’t like 80 per cent of English referees. I don’t like their behaviour on the pitch,” said De Zerbi.
“England is the only country where, when there is VAR, you are not sure the decision is right. In other countries you have to be sure the referee is 100 per cent right. In England no, I’m not able to understand (that).”
Mo Salah stayed hot on the heels of Haaland with his ninth and 10th PL goals of the season in Liverpool’s 3-0 rout away to Brentford that took them into second place, one goal ahead of Arsenal on goal difference.
But it was Salah’s teammate Darwin Nunez – who hasn’t always convinced since his big money move – who dazzled Jurgen Klopp. He banged in two disallowed goals, including one golazo ruled out for a close offside.
“Outstanding! Outstanding! Everyone can see!” said Klopp of his No.9.
“‘Look at him how he kept the ball for us, who would of thought that last year? That he could do that for us!”
“Standout was Darwin because Brentford wanted long balls so he started the pressing. Work-rate was insane.”
Just me, or is every Australian Arsenal fan sending their gratitude to Wolves this week after their two fabulous goals in stoppage time led to a second-straight defeat for Ange Postecoglou’s Tottenham?
He might be one of our own, but Ange-mania has started to go way too far. In the lead up to the game, the usually sober The Athletic pondered if Spurs “were the real winners” despite losing to Chelsea. Four freaking one!
And then Ange was awarded his third straight manager of the month award for beating three bottom half teams in the same month Arsenal defeated Man City for the first time in 13 attempts, batter Sheffield United and came from 2-0 down to get a point at Stamford Bridge.
To be fair Ange hasn’t embraced the hype – but perhaps it’s time everyone can take a deep breath and a cold shower.