Cole Palmer vs Everton: Shades of Eden Hazard and a goal-of-the-season contender

Cole Palmer vs Everton: Shades of Eden Hazard and a goal-of-the-season contender


Put this down as another occasion in which Cole Palmer’s words did not match the magnitude of his feats.

Palmer’s display in Chelsea’s 6-0 victory over Everton will be remembered as one of the best by any individual this season. A 16-minute perfect hat-trick (goals with his left foot, right foot and header) was made even better by another ice-cold penalty to become the first Chelsea player since Frank Lampard in 2010 to score four goals in a Premier League game.

While everyone around him is waxing lyrical and running out of superlatives, you can be sure Palmer is not going to get carried away by all the excitement. The 21-year-old’s post-match interviews are often delivered deadpan, as if he does not quite understand what all the fuss is about. Perhaps being this good, he is simply surprised anyone is still shocked at the things he can do with a football.

“I think my first one was my favourite,” Palmer said in classic understatement style when asked which of his four goals he liked the most.

Instead of going into great detail as to why, the England international then talked down the majestic inch-perfect lob for his and Chelsea’s third as being “a bit of a swinger” with his right foot. He may have had Everton’s beleaguered defenders fooled for the 80 minutes he was on the pitch, but nobody will surely fall for this attempt at self-deprecation.

The first goal certainly merits much greater acclaim and examination than Palmer managed. It was not only Chelsea’s best of the campaign, it surely has to be on the shortlist for the goal of this Premier League season. Palmer’s significant contribution garnered the acclaim of the crowd, but what elevates it to another level is the quality of the build-up which preceded it.

And so The Athletic has gone back to take another look at it in greater detail…

As the 12th minute is drawing to a close, Everton have a throw-in in Chelsea’s half and forward Beto takes it on his chest.

But Chelsea captain Conor Gallagher wins possession, Moises Caicedo flicks it to Thiago Silva, who passes it first time back to keeper Djordje Petrovic standing in the six-yard box. It is from this rather non-threatening position that Palmer will go on to beat Everton’s No 1 Jordan Pickford at the other end 20 seconds later.

As you can see below, the attacking move starts with Petrovic playing a simple ball out to Malo Gusto. Everton trio Beto, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Dwight McNeil are attempting to apply some pressure with a high press.

There is not much pace on Petrovic’s pass, but Gusto reacts calmly to McNeil closing him down and lays it off to centre-back Trevoh Chalobah.

Chalobah plays a lovely weighted first-time ball in between Doucoure and McNeil for Caicedo, who has found some space to run onto.

Everton’s James Garner sees the danger and tries to slide in to win the ball, but Caicedo is too quick and sends it perfectly into Gusto’s path as the France international makes a run down the right flank. Such is the speed of movement, Beto, Doucoure and McNeil are now out of the action.

Gusto advances into Everton’s half and cuts inside Vitalii Mykolenko as Noni Madueke threatens to overlap. Palmer has pulled away from his closest marker Jarrad Branthwaite and Gusto finds him with ease.

Branthwaite tries to retrieve possession, but Palmer sees him coming and nutmegs him after a silky touch with his left foot.

Branthwaite lunges desperately and does get a foot on the ball as Palmer continues his advance towards the Everton area, but the 21-year-old centre-back does not make enough contact to stop Chelsea’s top scorer.

Palmer carries on under pressure from Amadou Onana, while Garner is also now in the frame after sprinting from Chelsea’s half. As both men threaten to make Palmer the meat in an uncomfortable Everton sandwich, the Chelsea man produces an audacious back-heel flick behind Onana towards his team-mate Nicolas Jackson.

The Everton centre-back James Tarkowski is worried about the threat of Gusto and Madueke on the right flank, pointing in their direction to his left-back Mykolenko. But this distracts Mykolenko and himself for a crucial second, firstly allowing Jackson to provide a lovely return pass to Palmer with his left foot.

It also meant that as Palmer — who has opened up a two-yard gap from Onana and Garner — completes the one-two, Tarkowski is struggling to block any shot.

He lunges to his right as Palmer makes contact but it is too little too late. Palmer uses Tarkowski to curl it around him and into the bottom corner.

The Everton head coach, Sean Dyche, lamented his players’ lack of work rate and desire post-match — no doubt seeing the manner in which they conceded this goal as an example of that. But he would not be the first opposition manager this season to have a plan to contain Palmer foiled by the player’s movement and skill.

Chelsea have not had a player who leaves teams bewildered regularly like this since Eden Hazard left for Real Madrid in 2019. Here are some of Palmer’s stunning statistics for 2023-24:

  • 23 goals and 13 assists from 38 appearances for Chelsea
  • The first Chelsea player since Diego Costa in 2016-17 to score 20 Premier League goals
  • Level with Erling Haaland in the race for the Golden Boot (both on 20)
  • He is the first Chelsea player to score in seven successive Premier League games at home
  • Since March 1, he has found the net in England’s top division as many times as the whole Liverpool squad (nine)

Naturally, Palmer made it sound all so straightforward. He added: “As an attacker, you always want to help the team with goals and assists, but my main focus was playing well and trying to get into the positions to score goals.”

Job very well done, Cole.

(Top photo: Charlotte Wilson/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)


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