Why Cole Palmer is the best player in the Premier League this season

Cole Palmer’s meteoric rise this season is one that very few would have predicted. Yet, 20 goals and nine league assists later into his debut season with the Blues, the former City boy turned Chelsea man is now in the conversation for being the best player in England.
Chelsea FC v Everton FC - Premier League
Chelsea FC v Everton FC - Premier League / Alex Pantling/GettyImages

Prior to CFC’s 6-0 thrashing of Everton in the Blues last league outing, the narrative had been that Cole Palmer is the saving grace in another disappointing season for Chelsea.  However, four goals against the Toffees and a second consecutive hat trick on home turf meant that Palmer was suddenly propelled into a legitimate golden boot race with Erling Haaland. According to the Athletic's Sam Lee, Palmer is now also second favorite behind Phil Foden to win the PFA’s Player of the Year award but there really should be no reason why the Chelsea man shouldn’t be outright favorite.

Why Cole Palmer is the best player in the Premier League this season

The Statistics

From a purely statistical standpoint, few players in the Premier League are matching Palmer’s output. As aforementioned, the Chelsea man is currently tied with Erling Haaland in goals, both scoring 20 a piece this season. Although critics love to mention that Palmer’s goal tally is padded by his nine penalties scored, being an exceptional penalty taker shouldn't be held against him. Apart from scoring, Palmer is also one of the best passers in the league, currently with nine assists he's only one assist from having the most in the league. The only other player in the league who is top five in both goals and assists in the league is Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins. 

Beyond goals and assists, Palmer is the creative matrix of Chelsea’s entire attacking unit and in that light there’s likely no other player in the Premier League more valuable to their team than he is to Chelsea. According to FB ref, the winger ranks in the 90th and 88th percentile amongst attacking midfielders and wingers in Europe for progressive carries and shot creating actions respectively in Europe’s top five leagues.  His technical prowess on the ball, vision and finishing ability is a full attacking package we have not seen at Stamford Bridge since the time of Eden Hazard.

Big Game Performances

Chelsea as a whole have undoubtedly been mediocre, but this season’s performances certainly don’t feel as dreadful as they did under Graham Potter and Frank Lampard. The “Should Poch Stay or Go?” dilemma is a separate debate but you cannot argue that the Blues have not been one of the most entertaining teams to watch in the Premier League and that’s largely to do with Cole Palmer. It’s one thing to be able to score against the league’s mid table and relegation contenders regularly and it's another to consistently deliver against top teams on the level that Palmer has.  The “coldest man in London”’s catalogue of extraordinary performances in the league this season have been almost movie-like. The penalty in extra time to level the game against Manchester City in his first match against his former team was our first introduction to the 21 year old's cool nature under pressure. Recently, he’s followed it up with the emphatic hattrick against Manchester United and also against Everton being the first player to score four goals in a Premier League outing this season. Add onto those his consistency across match weeks and that’s why he’s also currently tied with Ollie Watkins for goal involvements in the league. 

The Storyline

Under normal circumstances, Cole Palmer shouldn’t be this close to the conversation for the Premier League’s best player. In the last 10 seasons, no player whose team finished outside the top 3 has ever won the PFA’s player of the year award. However, the storyline underpinning Palmer's rise stamps his candidacy.

At just 21 years old, Palmer transitioned from Pep Guardiola’s well-oiled Sky-Blue machine to a struggling Chelsea side, the second youngest in the Premier League with its fourth manager in the last 2 seasons. Despite arriving at what now looks like a steal for £42.5 million, expectations at the time of the deal were cautiously tempered.  Once given a consistent run of minutes, Palmer completely turned around the Blues’ lackluster attack, elevating it from one of the league’s worst to amongst the best in essentially his first full Premier League season.  

Currently, he's joint top scorer in the league with one of the most prolific goal scorer’s England has ever seen as a winger, while also standing out as an elite creator as well.  Palmer’s present caliber not only positions him among the Premier League’s elite but also thrusts him into the conversation alongside the brightest young talents globally, rubbing shoulders with Jude Bellingham, Phil Foden and Bukayo Saka. All this ascent within the span of 8 months and his stock is destined to continue rising.