“I’m tired,” Mauricio Pochettino said in his post-match press conference. And who could blame him? With Monday’s emotionally-draining Tottenham victory still fresh in the memory, the Argentine was subjected to another tortuous 90-plus minutes against Manchester City on Sunday.
However, thanks to Cole Palmer, at least the Blues came away with a 4-4 draw and a point to show for their efforts. The former City man netted from the penalty spot in second-half stoppage time to cap off another crazy game of Premier League football, after Ruben Dias had chopped down Armando Broja in the area.
Before that, this one had pretty much everything. As you might expect in a game with eight goals, Erling Haaland found himself on the scoresheet twice, though not without controversy, and Cole Palmer was not the only ex-City man that proved a point against his former employers.
England boss Gareth Southgate would have watched on with particular interest too, with Raheem Sterling making another strong case for his return to the national team. But, in the end, this one was all about Palmer – a young man proving that not all of Chelsea’s summer signings are doomed to failure.
Below, GOAL runs down all the winners and losers from Stamford Bridge…
WINNER: Erling Haaland
Haaland has scored two or more goals on 36 occasions since joining Borussia Dortmund in 2020 – more than any other player across Europe’s ‘Big Five’ leagues. Obviously! The man is a goalscoring machine, operating in a league of his own. It really is as simple as that. Like the Terminator, there is just no stopping him – no matter how little the Norwegian is involved in his team’s build-up play. However, while Haaland is sometimes criticised for his lack of touches, particularly since arriving at Manchester City, he was excellent at Stamford Bridge in every sense.
His hold-up play was fantastic – he was heavily involved in the move that led to City’s fourth goal – and he never gave Thiago Silva & Co. a moment’s piece. On days such as these, he really does look like a cheat code. City didn’t play particularly well at all yet they still managed to claim a point almost exclusively because of the phenomenal No.9.
LOSER: Manchester City’s defence
When Pep Guardiola claimed that Manchester City were “in trouble” following an injury to John Stones, many people scoffed. After all, the Catalan is in possession of one of the most expensively assembled squads in football history. The man is renowned for stockpiling £50 million defenders – and only this past summer he signed a centre-back, Josko Gvardiol, for nearly twice that figure.
However, Stones was undeniably conspicuous by his absence at Stamford Bridge, with his defensive excellence and composure on the ball in midfield sorely missed by a team that looked unusually ragged. The aforementioned Gvardiol continues to flatter to deceive but the real story was City being let down by some of their most reliable players, namely Ederson and Ruben Dias.
The former was at fault for Nicolas Jackson’s goal, while the latter was atrocious throughout, with his miserable evening capped by a terrible challenge on Armando Broja that allowed Palmer to level the game from the penalty spot. Maybe Guardiola was right. Maybe the treble-winners really are in trouble…
WINNER: Cole Palmer
Of all the signings Chelsea have made in the Todd Boehly era so far, few have generated as muted a reaction as when Palmer arrived from Manchester City in a £42.5m ($51.9m) deal. Dismissed as an overpay at the time, the silky forward is making his critics eat their words lately – and Sunday was his best display yet.
Cole Palmer clearly wanted to prove a point to his former club. His energy never dipped and he was involved in many of Chelsea’s best moves, linking up sublimely with Reece James down the right-hand side in particular. Midway through the second half, it appeared he’d created his crowning moment, jinking past a host of sky-blue shirts and into the box. However, off balance, he scuffed a tame effort at Ederson.
Thankfully, Dias was on hand to ensure his ex-team-mate went home happy. His foul gifted Chelsea a penalty at the death and despite a lengthy delay, Cole Palmer kept his nerve, stepping up to smash home and earn his side a point. This young team desperately needs leaders – and Palmer can be exactly that. City might have made a massive mistake in not fighting harder to keep him around in the summer.
LOSER: Levi Colwill
Colwill has not had the best week on a personal level. After putting in one of his shakiest displays in a Chelsea shirt against Tottenham on Monday – which resulted in him being dragged off at half time – he was absent from the squad entirely against City. The talented young defender suffered a minor shoulder injury in the lead up to the game and was not risked this weekend.
Colwill was milling around the press area with fellow absentee Wesley Fofana before the match and seemed in decent-enough spirits – particularly when he got to spend some time with rap superstar and Chelsea fan Jack Harlow. However, the knock comes at a less-than-ideal moment.
He was once again called up by England boss Gareth Southgate for next week’s Euro 2024 qualifiers against North Macedonia and Malta and although there is little to play for – with the Three Lions progression already secured – the warning Southgate issued to clubmate Reece James will be ringing in Colwill’s ears this evening. It’s not long until the action gets going in Germany and every single player will be laser-focussed on impressing Southgate. Colwill seems to have been deprived of that opportunity this month.
LOSER: Gareth Southgate
News of Colwill’s injury wasn’t the only blow dealt to Southgate on Sunday either. Watching Sterling rip City to shreds all afternoon made the England boss’ decision to leave the forward out of his latest squad all the more baffling. Speaking at his most recent press conference, Southgate suggested that there was no one who could be dropped to accommodate the forward.
But watching him glide past City shirts like a world-champion figure skater left little doubt in most people’s minds that he simply must return to the Three Lions’ set-up before the Euros.
If Sterling can keep us this form, expect the England boss to back down just in time for the summer trip to Germany.
WINNER: Reece James
This was supposed to be James’ season. Named club captain in the summer following the departure of Cesar Azpilicueta and with Chelsea’s interesting transfer strategy making him one of the most experienced members of the squad, Pochettino was counting on the defender to lead from the front. However, in a familiar story, James has spent too much of the current campaign injured, missing nine games in all competitions thus far.
It seemed like he was making up for lost time against City, ending a phenomenal first half with an assist, an inch-perfect cross to Sterling. Defensively, he was colossal too. Jeremy Doku has been embarrassing defenders for fun this season, but he had a tough afternoon’s work against James. No player on the pitch completed more tackles than the England international and he also won the overwhelming majority of his ground duels.
It was a shame to see him subbed after an hour, but in the long run, preserving his physical condition makes sense. When he’s operating at full tilt, Chelsea are a much better football team.