I remain convinced that Cole Palmer can make a very good false 9, and now Nicolas Jackson is away at AFCON this month, I think we should be utilising Palmer as a centre forward more often than not.
His finishing against Luton Town last weekend only reiterated that point to me even more. In fact, the positioning and movement for the second goal was peak number 9 movement, and the composed finish in the box when confronted by two defenders and a goalkeeper, is exactly the kind of in the box finishing and composure we have been missing and crying out for.
Even his first goal was mirroring of some fine number 9 play. The way he just didn’t even think about banging the ball in the direction of the goal with venom, was once again a fine example of what we have missed up top this season.
I spoke about this last week, and I fully maintain that our best front four right now should be Palmer as the false 9, Christopher Nkunku behind him as a 10 (his best position), Noni Madueke on the right, and Mykhailo Mudryk on the left. The rest behind them can be debated until the cows come home, but this to me is simply our best front 4, especially whilst Jackson is away at AFCON.
Nkunku for me must be able to float and roam, because as a 9 I see him being too isolated and will go missing, rather than be involved in the bulk of the player which is where he will fully thrive.
Of course, Pochettino might not even play a front four now Enzo Fernandez seems to be OK again, or he will probably end up using Enzo or Conor Gallagher as the 10, and if he does that and we don’t get results, I’ll have no sympathy. I don’t think Pochettino will use the mentioned front 4 at all by the way, but as I said last week, a man can dream.
It may seem harsh on Armando Broja to start Palmer ahead of him as the 9, but I am a big believer of starting players on merit and right now, whether that’s down to his injury (it probably is) or not, Broja’s form just hasn’t been good enough to warrant a start. By all means bring him on as a sub and let him battle and show form and if/when he does, give him a start again once he’s deserved that. But I think we have to get our best and most in form players on the pitch together, and this is the best way to do it.
I have the same feelings on Raheem Sterling as I do on Broja, and props to Poch for actually not bringing him back in for the Luton game, because he’s not earned it. Sterling’s form in the last handful of games has been poor, so again, he must earn his starts on merit once again – I don’t care who the player is.
Madueke has earned starts on merit right now, and so has Mudryk (I understand resting him last game because he took a knock the game before).
I’m not saying this is the front 4 we should see for Preston on Saturday, because there might be a chance for a fringe or academy player or two in this game, even though I’m split on what Poch will do there (more on that in my match preview today on my own website Si Phillips Talks Chelsea on Substack). But I’m talking more in general moving forward this month, I’d love to see Poch hand Palmer the false 9 keys, I genuinely think he has all the attributes to do well there. Maybe not for the long-term, but certainly for now.
If Chelsea do not find the right opportunity or right profile of number 9 to sign this window, then again, I think Palmer should be considered for the role. I’ve not changed my stance though, I fully believe we need to sign an out and out number 9 this month if we truly want to get European football.
Palmer though, could do a fine job there and I see him scoring and assisting many more from that position. Remember, he’s had PLENTY of experience playing that position at youth level.