Chelsea cruised into the Carabao Cup quarter-finals after ruthlessly dispatching Blackburn Rovers on Wednesday night.
The Blues have used the allure of silverware as a distraction from their current bleak prospects in the Premier League, having begun the season with four defeats from their first ten matches.
With several injuries to key players hindering their chances of progressing up the table, including marquee signing Christopher Nkunku and instrumental right-back Reece James, only a few players have stood out in Blue.
One of those is 21-year-old Cole Palmer, who arrived from Manchester City in the summer for a fee in the region of £42.5m.
Cole Palmer’s Chelsea’s statistics
It shouldn’t be a surprise that a player who featured 25 times in a star-studded Man City team last term has brought an abundance of quality to Stamford Bridge, but the signing of Palmer is one of few who has worked out in recent times.
He’s been thrown into a tough situation at Chelsea, utilised in various positions, including on the right flank, as an attacking midfielder and a false 9, but the 21-year-old has still impressed many with how he’s seamlessly transitioned into this Mauricio Pochettino system, including journalist Nizaar Kinsella.
In the absence of Nkunku, he’s provided Chelsea with exceptional ball-carrying, which has been described by one performance analyst as “powerful”, ranking in the top 15% of positional peers across Europe’s top five leagues in the past year for progressive carries and top 13% for carries into the penalty area, as per FBref.
With four goals and three assists in all competitions his term, Palmer has carried the weight of expectation admirably by showcasing his intelligent movement and precise finishing.
Whilst Palmer has started well at Chelsea and Nkunku is soon to return, Pochettino is still in the market for another attack-minded player, and Bayer Leverkusen’s Florian Wirtz has popped onto their radar.
Chelsea transfer news – Florian Wirtz
According to the TEAMtalk, Chelsea are the Premier League side most interested in signing the attacking midfielder with Manchester City also said to be keeping an eye on the 20-year-old.
Having made his debut for Leverkusen at the age of 17, Wirtz became the club’s youngster-ever player to play in the league and has since established himself as a crucial cog in Xabi Alonso’s machine.
With a value of £87m (100m), as per Football Observatory, any deal to prise him away from the Bundesliga is going to come at a hefty cost but having risen to prominence as one of the most exciting young talents in European football, he could prove to be worth every penny.
How Florian Wirtz compares to Cole Palmer
The 12-cap Germany international has started the 2023/24 campaign in fine form, posting five goals and nine assists in 14 appearances across competitions, trumping the output of the ever-impressive Palmer.
Florian Wirtz 23/24
Cole Palmer 23/24
Shots on target per game
Big chances created
Key passes per game
All stats via Sofascore
The above statistics imply that Wirtz is more active in the final third, creating more chances, beating his man on more occasions, supplying better quality and causing a huge threat to his opponents.
Wirtz clearly holds the advantage over the Englishman in various attacking metrics, impacting the game in a positive manner with his explosive chance creation and incisive dribbling, with his style of play drawing comparisons from Alonso to the great Lionel Messi, saying:
Why is Messi so good? Because he knows how and when to play simple passes. Messi says: “You’re in a better position? Here, there you have the ball!”
‘It’s not always about making the most brilliant move, but the best and smartest. Florian can do that. That’s why he’s so good.’
As demonstrated by the adulation he’s received from his manager, if Chelsea can strike a deal with Leverkusen next year and prise their most invaluable duel away from Alonso’s crown, they will have one of the best wonderkids on the planet startling defences in west London. The prospect of that happening alongside Palmer is a mouthwatering one.