Published On: Tue, Apr 16th, 2024

Two Chelsea players feeling the heat after shying away from crucial moments | Football | Sport

Cole Palmer read the script correctly. He’s Chelsea’s penalty-taker. Surely everyone knows that. Right…right? He’s taken them when they mattered against the following this season – to name but a few.

Against Arsenal, (opening goal) Spurs, (equaliser) Manchester City, (last-minute leveller) Fulham (only goal in a derby) and a second penalty during that remarkable comeback victory over Manchester United. All of those goals meant something.

But as Nicolas Jackson and Noni Madueke swarmed around Chelsea’s brightest talent since Eden Hazard, after another spot-kick was awarded on Monday night, it appeared that a couple of his closest colleagues didn’t get the memo.

This is strange because they’ve both been in and around Mauricio Pochettino’s first XI often enough to know who has stepped up when the pressure has truly been on this season. And it’s not been them.

Palmer shoved them both away – pretty forcibly – but he still needed Conor Gallagher’s help to ensure that he helped himself to a fourth goal against an oh-so-weak Everton. A daft spat? Or does it tell us more about the mentality of the modern-day player?

Or even give us a clue as to the issues that Pochettino needs to overcome if Chelsea are to return to being a real force in the Premier League?

Make no mistake, the second that referee Paul Tierney awarded the spot-kick, Madueke and Jackson thought the same: ‘Easy goal when it doesn’t matter.’ They raced for the ball like starved sharks would approach a juicy piece of chum.

Chelsea had won the game by that stage. Everton looked shell-shocked at half-time following the four-goal opening barrage. There was no coming back from that.

The duo of would-be heroes knew even if they missed – or even if Jordan Pickford had redeemed himself from yet another costly mistake – in the grand scheme Chelsea would be picking up three points.

Put it like this: They weren’t squabbling over the football against Erik ten Hag’s letdowns a few weeks ago – and both of them were on the pitch. Both Jackson and Madueke knew that it was another strike to put towards their tally.

The former has just about reached double figures in the Premier League. The latter has three to his name. They must be feeling the heat. Chelsea paid big money for the pair of them – and the return isn’t great from either.

It would be reading too much into it to say that this is symptomatic of the issues at Stamford Bridge. That there’s so much confusion, there isn’t a designated penalty-taker – because there is.

But it does tell you something about the mentality – and pressure, perhaps – that players operate under that they will try to grab some glory from a team-mate to boost their standing. Palmer was right to stand his ground. Not only is he the man in form, he’s also the guy who takes the penalties.

The only other one to come out with any credit from this was Gallagher who also read the script – saw it was a needless row – coming to Palmer’s aid by bulldozing the pair of warring wannabes out of the way.

This entire episode was unseemly, lacking class and avoidable. It is to be suggested that if Jackson and Madueke want to boost their profiles in the future they do it from open play – to help the team out – not by taking an easy shot when the pressure’s off.

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