Decoding Cole Palmer's underrated skill

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Chelsea fans have been in awe of Cole Palmer's mastery on the ball this season. The young Englishman has produced innumerable moments of magic with his majestic passing range capable of finding teammates through acute angles, game-changing goals, and dribbling flair that Stamford Bridge has longed to see.

Among the many dazzling skills of Palmer lies a very underrated attribute that is equally important to his game and one which is significantly important in modern football tactics - defensive intelligence.

Off-ball Cognizance

The best defensive structures in the world stem from the effectiveness of the team's first line of pressure. Arsenal is a great example. As one of the best defensive sides in Europe this season, a key factor has been their effective first line of pressure.

Mikel Arteta's side press in a 4-4-2 shape, with the first line of their system consisting of two players leading the team as they coordinate a well-drilled press that blocks passing lanes to the center of the pitch.

Mauricio Pochettino has generally employed a similar 4-4-2 system, with Palmer forming the front line of two that also consists of Nicolas Jackson, who has predominantly occupied that role this season. From this position, the Chelsea No. 20 has excellently led the press in numerous games this season, especially in the memorable 4-4 draw against Manchester City, Palmer's boyhood club, where the Blues continuously caused problems for the visitors as they denied central access with their efficient press.

Furthermore, Palmer has created chances and scored goals in various matches after a high turnover in the final third. Against Fulham and Blackburn Rovers, Palmer assisted Armando Broja and Raheem Sterling, having won the ball back in the attacking half.

Palmer also scored against Everton after cleverly intercepting loose balls and capitalizing on the gaping opportunity.

The data reflects the same as Palmer leads in the Chelsea squad for Shot-Creating Actions (SCA) from defensive actions - a statistic that quantifies the attacking chances created from defensive actions. For example, if a player causes a turnover that leads to a shot or goal, it is recorded as a SCA from a defensive action.

Palmer is also one of the leading players in the Premier League in the same metric, demonstrating his defensive prowess compared to the best defensively aware players.

As Palmer's remarkable season concludes, fans will remember his brilliance on the ball, but his defensive awareness makes him the complete player that managers desire.

The next time you tune into a Chelsea match featuring Palmer, keep an eye on his defensive movement and contributions to appreciate the underrated quality of Chelsea's crown jewel.