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Keep, Sell, Loan: Kasey Palmer’s 2016-17 season in review

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Appearances (starts + substitute):
EFL Championship: 16 + 9 (1329 minutes)
EFL Cup: 0 + 1 (32 minutes)
FA Cup: 1 (90 minutes)

Goals + Assists:
EFL Championship: 4 + 3
FA Cup: 1

There’s a seemingly endless supply of attacking talent coming out of the Chelsea Academy these days. Some have been there most of their lives, some have joined a bit later. Kasey Palmer is in the latter category, alongside the likes of Izzy Brown, Charly Musonda Jr. and Jeremie Boga. Like Brown, Palmer was signed by the Academy in March 2013 after he impressed against Chelsea’s Under-18 side in the 2012-13 FA Youth Cup while playing for Charlton Athletic. In the following three seasons, Palmer amassed 106 appearances for Chelsea youth teams, scoring 34 goals in the process; in this time, he won the Under-21 Premier League once, and the FA Youth Cup and UEFA Youth League twice each. Palmer always had an eye for the spectacular and scored many great goals in his youth career, but his talent only became obvious to everyone in 2015-16, when many of his already heralded teammates, such as aforementioned trio of Brown, Boga, and Musonda went out on loan. Palmer’s showings that year earned him a place in the first-team towards the end of the season under Guus Hiddink, and he even made a couple of appearances on the first-team bench with a squad number of 38.

Paris Saint Germain v Chelsea FC - UEFA Youth League Final Photo by Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images

Palmer has made most of his career appearances as an attacking midfielder. He loves to take players on and is capable of producing jaw-dropping moments, whether in scoring goals or beating defenders. While he isn’t quite a prodigious dribbler in the mould of Musonda or Boga, he’s a threat on goal from anywhere near the penalty area, can pick a pass with the best of them, and can create a chance at the drop of a hat.

Palmer was sent out on loan to second division Huddersfield Town last summer, and after taking his time to get fit following an injury, he soon became part of the first-choice XI — though manager David Wagner would rotate him from time to time to accommodate their gegenpressing style of play. In fact, Palmer scored the winning goal with his first touch in his very first Huddersfield appearance, coming off the bench. After a superb first half of the season, Palmer picked up a hamstring injury in early February that initially put him on course for a return in late April but a setback during rehabilitation effectively ended his season ... or so it seemed. Palmer made a near-miraculous comeback just in time for the Championship Play-off Final.

Palmer’s effort and determination was rewarded with a spot on the bench and a substitute appearance, when he replaced fellow Chelsea loanee Isaiah Brown in extra-time. Looking just as comfortable as before in the short time that he was on the pitch, Palmer was also apparently Wagner’s choice for the fifth Huddersfield Town penalty taker, but was probably pushed to sixth after center-back Christopher Schindler insisted on taking the penalty that ultimately saw Town promoted to the Premier League.

Palmer ended the season with just under 1,500 minutes on the pitch which would’ve been a lot more were it not for his injury, but is enough for statistics to provide a fair reflection of his skills and attributes. Let us go through a series of comparisons with respect to statistics per 90 minutes, starting with a comparison of Palmer and a few of his Chelsea peers in Musonda, Boga, John Swift and Lucas Piazon.

Kasey Palmer vs other (current and former) Chelsea prospects

Palmer can not only boast the highest number of aerials won, total shots and goals scored, but he’s not lacking in any one statistical category either. Great at some things and above average at most others? Something like a young Willian, if I may say so. Palmer looks a much more well-rounded player at this point than the rest, which makes it easier for him to possibly thrive in a team that doesn’t necessarily endorse a brand of football that absolutely plays to his strengths. You may also watch a compilation video of Palmer’s actions in the first half of his Huddersfield season, put together by the Terriers’ official media team.

Let’s now take it a step further and compare Palmer to four other attacking midfielders of the same age-group playing in top-flight leagues across Europe, namely Yassine Benzia (Lille), Max Meyer (Schalke), Nadiem Amiri (Hoffenheim) and Bruno Fernandes (Sampdoria).

Kasey Palmer vs Top-flight European talents of the same age group

Palmer once again more than comfortably holds his own against these foreign talents, although he doesn’t seem to have as much of the ball than the rest. The well-rounded nature of his game is highlighted here as well, with a glaring gap between his take-ons completed and aerial duels won, and that of the others. A comparison of Palmer with some of the better, older attacking midfielders in the Championship, such as Tom Ince and Wes Hoolahan, will also tell you that he has ability well beyond his years.

Finally, let’s compare him to two of Chelsea’s current options for the inside-forward role, Pedro and Willian, a proven elite Premier League talent in Dele Alli and Jack Wilshere, who spent the season playing as an attacking midfielder on loan at Bournemouth.

The idea behind this comparison is to see how he measures up versus starting options for Chelsea (Pedro, Willian), a talent of the same age who plays week-in, week-out at a Champions League club like Tottenham (Alli) and an elite talent of the past like Wilshere, who was a key player for a mid-table club like Bournemouth. Palmer is rumoured to be wanted by Bournemouth and with good reason, as he’d make an excellent, if slightly different style Wilshere replacement. We can also once again see that Palmer is more of a Willian than a Pedro, which also leads me to believe that he can perform the same kind of role in Conte’s squad.

To cap things off, here’s an all-touches video of Palmer in Huddersfield’s 1-2 win against Norwich City that took place in December.

One of Palmer’s best displays in a Huddersfield shirt this year came in this game. A thorn in Norwich’s side all game long, he caused Graham Dorrans a lot of problems with his close control and ability to run with the ball. Palmer was key in keeping the attack fluid whenever Huddersfield chose to go through the center (they prefer to play through the wings), won lots of free-kicks and was a constant annoyance to their defence with his work-rate off the ball. This season, Palmer also received great tactical education from Wagner; he would prove very useful to a side that likes to press high, just as he has here, forcing his opponents into errors.

Verdict:

Kasey Palmer is my dark horse candidate to make it at Chelsea from the recent crop of attacking midfielders who have graduated from the academy. Despite the injury that ruled him out for half the season and kept a lot of people from becoming acquainted with his talent, he’s made great strides under an excellent coach playing in a system that suited him, and was a key part of a team that won promotion to the Premier League. It just goes to show how important it is to find the right loan for a player.

As for next season, I strongly believe Palmer should be playing in the Premier League. As I mentioned earlier, he could flourish at a team like Bournemouth, or simply be loaned back to Huddersfield. With a loan in the Premier League, Palmer could realistically challenge for a place at Chelsea ... though I think he’s ready to spend pre-season with us at least, just like Charly Musonda is reportedly set to do.

Of course, when it comes to going back on loan to Huddersfield, which Palmer has stated he’d like to do, matters get a little complicated, because there’s also the situation of Izzy Brown to consider. Brown practically replaced Palmer in the second half of the season for Huddersfield and has also done very well, meaning the club will no doubt want to retain both for next season. I hope Chelsea can avoid selling for one more season at least, and loan them out to different clubs. Hence, my verdict is loan and preferably to Huddersfield, even over Izzy Brown if it comes to that.

Poll

What would you do with Kasey Palmer next season?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    Keep
    (94 votes)
  • 78%
    Loan
    (838 votes)
  • 3%
    Sell (cash in!)
    (42 votes)
  • 8%
    Sell at a lower price but with a buy-back clause
    (93 votes)
1067 votes total Vote Now