Nicolas Jackson appeared to question Chelsea's decision to part company with Mauricio Pochettino as Cole Palmer paid thanks to the Argentine.

On Tuesday, Chelsea announced Pochettino had left the club by mutual consent after just one season in charge, which ended in a sixth-place Premier League finish.

Several pundits expressed shock at the decision, after an upturn saw Chelsea recover from a poor start to the season to clinch European qualification.  

Only four teams – Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal and Newcastle United – had a better expected goals (xG) figure than Chelsea (75.3) in the Premier League in 2023-24, while only three – City, Liverpool and Arsenal – had more shots on target than the Blues (215).

From March 11 onwards, Chelsea's return of 27 points was only bettered by eventual champions Manchester City, who took 28 in that span.

A number of Chelsea players appeared to be surprised by Pochettino's exit when reacting on social media, most notably Jackson.

Alongside an image of himself alongside Pochettino, Jackson wrote on Instagram: "Love you coach. Wish we could stay together more.

"But may God continue to bless you and your family. Thanks for the advice and support, you're a true lion and a fighter, wish you all the best."

Leading goalscorer Palmer, meanwhile, paid a heartfelt tribute to Pochettino in an Instagram post of his own.

"Gaffer, thank you for everything you have done for me and making my dreams come true," the England international wrote. "All the best."

Former Blues captain John Terry, meanwhile, said he was "gutted" to see Pochettino depart.

Posting to his Instagram story, Terry added: "I just hope we don't sign or sell any players until we get a manager in."

Ipswich Town boss Kieran McKenna and Brentford's Thomas Frank have been touted as possible successors, with co-owner Todd Boehly reportedly looking to hire a progressive young coach to work within Chelsea's existing structure. 

Erling Haaland has won the Premier League Golden Boot for a second straight season.

Manchester City striker Haaland finished with 27 goals from 31 appearances this season, finishing five goals ahead of Chelsea attacking midfielder Cole Palmer, who emerged as a surprise contender after leaving the Etihad Stadium for Stamford Bridge ahead of the 2023-24 campaign.

Haaland scored a single-season record 36 goals in his debut year in England and while he did not match those numbers this time around, he ultimately prevailed with a comprehensive five-goal advantage over Palmer.

Newcastle striker Alexander Isak was in third place with 21 goals. There was a three-way tie for fourth place on 19 goals between Dominic Solanke, Phil Foden and Ollie Watkins.

Mohamed Salah (18 goals) and Son Heung-min (17) were also prominent high finishers, with Bukayo Saka and Jarrod Bowen joined on 16 by Jean-Philippe Mateta on the final day of the season when he netted a hat-trick in Crystal Palace's 5-0 win over Aston Villa.

While Haaland claims award glory, it was Foden (two) and Rodri who scored the goals as Man City beat West Ham 3-1 at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday to secure a historic fourth successive Premier League trophy.

But Haaland's goals had been crucial to getting City into a title-winning position.

The 23-year-old started the season with a bang, scoring eight goals in his first six top-flight appearances, including a hat-trick in the 5-1 win over Fulham in early September.

While he battled an injury and a brief mid-season dip in form, doubles against Manchester United and Chelsea kept the Norway forward in contention.

And Haaland ultimately pulled away from his Golden Boot rivals in the closing stages of the campaign.

The striker scored four times in the 5-1 home win over Wolves this month to all but end the contest even before his pivotal double against Tottenham on Tuesday put Man City on the brink of title glory.

Haaland matches the likes of Harry Kane, Salah and Robin van Persie as players to win the Golden Boot in consecutive seasons.

Thierry Henry has won the most Golden Boot crowns with four, while Kane, Salah and Premier League record goalscorer Alan Shearer all have three apiece, with Haaland now just one behind that group.

The Playmaker of the Season award for the most Premier League assists went to Aston Villa striker Watkins.

As well as scoring his 19 goals, Watkins racked up 13 assists in a fine individual season, helping Villa to Champions League qualification.

He is the first Aston Villa player to win the award since it began in the 2017-18 season.

Watkins finished two assists ahead of Palmer (11), who comes second in both awards, while Kevin De Bruyne was part of a large group in a tie for third with 10 assists.

Man City's De Bruyne is a three-time winner and came close to topping the creative standings again despite missing much of the season through injury.

The Golden Glove winner is Arsenal goalkeeper David Raya, who finished with a final tally of 16 clean sheets.

He is the Gunners’ first winner of the award since Petr Cech also kept 16 clean sheets for the Gunners in the 2015-16 season. Wojciech Szczęsny is another former Arsenal winner.

Everton keeper Jordan Pickford was second to Raya with 13 shutouts.

Those two shot-stoppers did battle on the final day, as Arsenal won 2-1 against Everton, but it was not enough to stop the celebrations for Haaland and City.

Cole Palmer says the Chelsea players want to fight for Mauricio Pochettino, and credits him for Chelsea’s late challenge for a European spot this season.

There has been speculation in recent weeks that Pochettino may not remain Chelsea manager after the end of the season, despite their strong run of form. 

Chelsea moved sixth in the Premier League table after holding on to beat Brighton 2-1 on Wednesday with 10 men after Reece James’ late sending-off thanks to goals from Palmer and Christopher Nkunku.

Palmer has proven instrumental for Chelsea in his debut season, scoring 22 goals in the league, but the youngster was quick to move the focus to Pochettino’s work.

"For it to be in our hands to get sixth place is a big thing for us," Palmer told BBC Sport.

"Chelsea are a big club and everyone wants to finish higher than sixth, but you have to look at where we were at the start of the season.

"All credit to the manager. All the players love the manager and want to fight for him."

Chelsea have lost just one of their last 13 Premier League matches, winning each of the last four, meaning they only need to avoid defeat against Bournemouth on Sunday to claim a top-six finish.

Pochettino was full of praise for how his side saw out the win against Brighton, saying: "So happy for the players, they deserve the full credit for the way that we worked, our approach to the game and the way we tried to apply all of the work we were doing on the training ground.

"I am proud. To face a team like Brighton is always difficult here. We are so happy because the three points mean we are closer to achieving what we want."

Mauricio Pochettino reiterated he plans to still be in charge of Chelsea next season following his side's remarkable win over Nottingham Forest.

Chelsea made it three wins in a row - and four without defeat - thanks to a battling 3-2 victory in Saturday's Premier League clash at City Ground.

Pochettino has repeatedly had his position called into question this season, but the Blues' upturn in form has changed all that.

Speaking on the eve of the Forest game, the Argentinian said he would stay as long as owners Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali were happy.

And asked again about his future by Sky Sports after the match, Pochettino said: "I had an honest conversation in the press conference. 

"To clarify, if the owner is happy with my job we can continue. I am always a coach who is thinking long term. 

"All departments must be happy for us to be a good team to compete. I still have one more year in my contract and I am thinking to be here."

Chelsea found themselves behind against Forest when Mykhailo Mudryk's opener was cancelled out by Willy Boly and Callum Hudson-Odoi.

However, Raheem Sterling equalised on 80 minutes and fellow substitute Reece James assisted Nicolas Jackson's winner two minutes later.

The 35 points Chelsea have collected since Boxing Day has been bettered only by top three sides Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool.

"The best thing is the way that we always believe until the end," Pochettino said after his side's latest victory. "Football is about fighting. 

"I am pleased because the players from the bench made a big impact so I am happy with our recovery. 

"It was important for the team to finish the season strong, with the hope to start next season really well.

"If we are honest, we were punished in our first 10 games. Our performance was good but we were not clinical and we wasted big chances. 

"All the data said we were in a false position. After we beat Tottenham, in the last 24 games we are in the top four or five.

"I want to be positive, that is important. We have struggled in these type of games but this young team need to realise how we need to compete."

Chelsea are level on points with sixth-place Newcastle United, who occupy a Europa Conference League play-off spot.

Tottenham are six points better off in a Europa League spot, meanwhile, with two games left to play for both sides.

Asked if his side can still qualify for Europe, Pochettino said: "I hope, yes. But there are still two big games."

Cole Palmer has been hailed as "one of the best in the world" by team-mate Reece James after playing his part in Chelsea's thrilling 3-2 win at Nottingham Forest.

England international Palmer superbly assisted Mykhailo Mudryk's early opener in Saturday's Premier League contest, before Willy Boly's swift leveller and Callum Hudson-Odoi's second-half curler put Forest in front.

Chelsea pulled off a remarkable late turnaround, however, as Raheem Sterling levelled up on 80 minutes and fellow substitute James assisted Nicolas Jackson's winner two minutes later at City Ground.

Palmer's assist means he has directly contributed to 31 goals in the Premier League this season, which is the joint-most in the division alongside Aston Villa's Ollie Watkins.

Speaking to Sky Sports after the late win at Forest, captain James said: "Cole Palmer is one of the best in the world, I think personally.

"At [Manchester] City he didn't play as much as he would like but he has come here and taken the chance with both hands."

Palmer is just the fourth player in Premier League history to score 20 or more goals and provide 10 or more assists in his debut campaign for a club.

The others on that prestige list are Andrew Cole with Newcastle United in 1993-94, Jurgen Klinsmann with Tottenham in 1994-95 and Mohamed Salah with Liverpool in 2017-18.

The 22-year-old, stood alongside James, said of his colleague's comments: "I wouldn't go that far! But it's nice to hear. 

"It's all new to me. This is my first season playing properly in the league. It was a very important win and now we focus on the next one."

Chelsea have now won three Premier League games in a row and are level on points with sixth-place Newcastle United.

Since Boxing Day, only Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool have picked up more points than Chelsea's 35 in the Premier League, while only leaders City have suffered fewer defeats.

James, who was making his return from a five-month absence, added: "We learn every day. 

"We're still young but we are improving and we're coming strong at the end of the season. Slowly but surely we are finding our feet and reaching a level."

Mauricio Pochettino says it would not be "the end of the world" if he were to leave Chelsea at the end of the season.

The Blues have lost just one of their last 12 matches in the Premier League, and they thrashed West Ham 5-0 in their last game to make it four home wins on the bounce.

Chelsea now sit in seventh place with a place in Europe next season within their reach, but rumours continue to spread that Pochettino’s future at the club is not safe.

Pochettino stressed that he wants to be involved in the conversations about the club’s plans at the end of the season, which is when a decision will be made.

He said: "If we are happy, perfect. But it is not only if the owners are happy or the sporting directors happy... You need to ask us also, because maybe [we] say, ‘we are not happy’ and we accept the situation, and we need to split.

“It is not going to be the first time the coaching staff at the end of the season decide to not keep going. But at this end, it is always the opposite way. It is always the owners or the sporting directors.

"If we split it’s not a problem, it will not be the end of the world."

At the other end of the table, Nottingham Forest boosted their survival hopes with a 3-1 win over already-relegated Sheffield United last Saturday to move three points clear of the drop.

With Forest still not safe with two games to go, Nuno Espirito Santo admitted this was his toughest season as a manager so far.

"It’s been hard but I’m repeating myself. Since day one we embraced the challenge," said Nuno.

"There were a lot of things we were not expecting, but we dealt with them in the proper moment and in the right way. With the right attitude and working together, we can overcome the obstacles, and we have had a lot."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Nottingham Forest – Chris Wood

Wood has scored more goals than any other Nottingham Forest player in the Premier League this season (12). However, in 11 meetings with Chelsea in the competition, he has never found the back of the net, something he will want to change at the weekend.

Chelsea – Cole Palmer

Palmer has been involved in 30 Premier League goals this season, scoring 21 and assisting nine.

The last Chelsea player to be involved in more was Eden Hazard in 2018-19 (31 – 16G 15A), while 2009-10 was the last time a Blues player scored more in a league campaign (Didier Drogba 29, Frank Lampard 22).

MATCH PREDICTION: CHELSEA WIN

Chelsea have lost just one of their last 12 Premier League games (W6 D5), though they are winless in their last five away from home (D4 L1).

The Blues have won just two of their last 10 away league games against Forest (D4 L4), winning 1-0 in November 1994 and 3-1 in February 1999.

Following their 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge in September, Forest are looking to complete their first league double over Chelsea since 1978-79, when they were reigning top-flight champions under Brian Clough.

Indeed, Forest have only lost their final home league match in one of their six previous Premier League campaigns (W4 D1), doing so against Sheffield United in 1992-93 with a 2-0 defeat that confirmed their relegation.

Chelsea’s Premier League games have seen 129 goals this season (F70 A59), the third most after Sheffield United (135) and Newcastle (134). Only in 2009-10 (135) have the Blues' games produced more goals (F103 A32).

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Nottingham Forest – 25.5%

Draw – 27.6%

Chelsea – 46.9%

Mauricio Pochettino has warned his Chelsea players they face their "most dangerous" game when West Ham visit Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

The Blues picked up one of their best Premier League results of the season on Thursday in beating Tottenham 2-0 on home soil.

Another London derby now awaits, but Pochettino believes the quick turnaround in matches could work against his side.

"It is the most dangerous game because now we have to keep the same mentality for Sunday," he said.

"We are playing a team who are so strong, have physicality and West Ham are having a fantastic season and have been competing in Europe.

"We need to recover players. We don't have too many options to add fresh people to the squad and they have had the whole week to prepare."

Inconsistent Chelsea have often struggled to build on positive results this season, explaining why they sit eighth in the Premier League.

Pochettino's side are two points better off than West Ham with a game in hand as they both desperately attempt to keep their top-six hopes alive.

West Ham are winless in five matches in all competitions, seeing them drop down the Premier League and exit the Europa League.

Doubts remain over manager David Moyes' future, with his current deal expiring at the end of the campaign, but he is focusing only on Chelsea.

"We're going to have to play well to get a result against them," Moyes said at his pre-match press conference.

"I think [Pochettino's] had a difficult job, and they've started to hit form. Mauricio is a great manager, and they have a lot of good, young players.

"There are lots of tough stadiums to go to, Stamford Bridge being one of those. We'll go there and do everything we can to get a result."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Chelsea - Cole Palmer

Palmer has undoubtedly been Chelsea's best player in his debut campaign at the club, having scored and assisted a combined 29 goals in 29 Premier League matches. 

The England international has been directly involved in a goal against 13 different opponents in the competition this term, and he will be looking to make that 14 against West Ham after missing the reverse fixture.

West Ham - Michail Antonio

Antonio earned West Ham a point against Liverpool last time out and now has a combined 99 goals and assists in the Premier League for United.

That leaves the Jamaica international, who has four goals in his past seven outings, one short of hitting a milestone that no other player has ever managed for the club.

MATCH PREDICTION: CHELSEA WIN

West Ham won 3-1 when the sides most recently met in August and are aiming to pull off a Premier League double in this fixture for just the third time, having previously done so in 2002-03 and 2019-20.

However, Chelsea have lost just one of their past 17 home league games against West Ham - a 1-0 defeat in November 2019 under Frank Lampard.

Goals can be expected as West Ham have gone 15 Premier League games without a clean sheet, last having a longer run without a shutout in the top flight between March and November 2008 (24 games).

Five of West Ham's last 10 Premier League matches, meanwhile, have seen both teams score two or more goals, including each of the last two. 

Facing Chelsea on a Sunday could prove to be good news for West Ham as their London rivals have won just one of their past 13 league games on the final day of the week.

However, Moyes will need no reminding he has never won an away league match against Chelsea in 18 attempts. Pochettino will become the 11th different manager he has faced at Stamford Bridge in that time.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

CHELSEA - 49.4%

DRAW - 26.5%

WEST HAM - 24.1%

Trevoh Chalobah and Nicolas Jackson scored as Chelsea dealt a huge blow to Tottenham's Champions League hopes, recording a 2-0 derby win over Mauricio Pochettino's old club at Stamford Bridge.

Exactly eight years on from the memorable "Battle of the Bridge" between the teams, which saw nine Spurs players booked in a fiery 2-2 draw that confirmed Leicester City as champions, Chelsea inflicted more woe upon their rivals.

Spurs paid for lacklustre set-piece defending midway through the first half as Chalobah headed Conor Gallagher's free-kick home, then Jackson pounced when Cole Palmer rattled the crossbar from another dead ball 72 minutes in.

Ange Postecoglou's side were far from their free-flowing best and have now lost three straight Premier League games. They stay fifth, seven points behind fourth-placed Aston Villa with just one game in hand.

Chelsea, meanwhile, climb above West Ham into eighth, just three points adrift of Manchester United in sixth.

The Blues went agonisingly close to a fifth-minute lead as Jackson raced through on goal to slot his effort under Guglielmo Vicario, but Micky van de Ven raced back to hook it off the line and Palmer could not sort his feet out on the rebound.

Chelsea were ahead after 24 minutes, though, as Chalobah met Gallagher's deep free-kick with a looping header into the top-right corner, the goal being confirmed by VAR following a check for a possible foul by Marc Cucurella.

Mykhailo Mudryk went close with a curling effort as Tottenham continued to toil, the visitors' best chance of the first half coming when Cristian Romero headed Pedro Porro's free-kick wide.

Ange Postecoglou cut an animated figure before half-time, and his side improved after the restart, but Chelsea could have had a second when Palmer shot over at the end of a promising break.

Chelsea did double their advantage with 18 minutes to play, the opportunistic Jackson heading into an unguarded net after Palmer's free-kick clattered off the woodwork with Vicario at full stretch.

Tottenham never looked like responding from there, and they now need a minor miracle to secure a top-four finish.

Pochettino haunts former employers

Having also overseen Chelsea's memorable 4-1 win in November's return fixture at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Pochettino completed a league double over his former employers.

He is the first coach to ever beat Spurs home and away in a single Premier League campaign having previously managed them in the competition.

The Argentine's first season at Stamford Bridge may not have gone entirely to plan, but there may just be green shoots of recovery emerging in the closing weeks of the campaign.

Having endured a run of one win in 14 home Premier League games between March and November last year (seven draws, six losses), Chelsea – who face West Ham next – have now won eight of their last 10 on their own turf (one draw, one defeat).

Set-pieces costing Spurs

Tottenham have a set-piece problem. Arsenal ruthlessly exploited some slack marking from their neighbours to score two goals from corners in Sunday's north London derby, and on Thursday, it was two free-kicks that undid Postecoglou's men.

Prior to this game, Spurs had conceded 12 goals from set-pieces, excluding penalties, in the Premier League this season. Only Manchester United (15.3) and Burnley (14.9) had allowed opponents a higher cumulative expected goals (xG) figure from such situations than their 14.3.

They did not learn their lesson, Emerson Royal and Brennan Johnson getting nowhere near Chalobah as he headed home from a routine delivery to the back post for the opener.

Those fine margins could prove incredibly costly, with Tottenham now a long way adrift of top-four rivals Aston Villa with daunting fixtures against Liverpool and Manchester City still to come. 

Mauricio Pochettino slammed Chelsea's lack of consistency after they were thrashed 5-0 by Arsenal on Tuesday, saying: "When we have bad days, we are so bad." 

Chelsea travelled to the Emirates Stadium looking to close the gap to the Premier League's top seven, but instead saw their European hopes further dented by a chastening 5-0 defeat. 

The defeat was Chelsea's heaviest ever against the Gunners in all competitions, and their worst in a London derby since they lost 6-0 to Queens Park Rangers in March 1986.

The fact that dismal performance came just three days after Chelsea pushed Manchester City close in the teams' FA Cup semi-final only served to rile Pochettino.

"We are showing this inconsistency and that is why we are where we are," Pochettino said.

"We are able to have an amazing performance and then one like this. When we have bad days, we are so bad. It's difficult to talk. We were talking in the same way after last season.

"We put in a fantastic performance at Wembley and then today, you can lose a game at Arsenal but in the way we competed… why one day, three days ago and then today in this way?"

Chelsea have now conceded 57 goals in the Premier League this season, their outright most in a single campaign in the competition, having previously shipped 55 in both 1994-95 and 1996-97.

In attack, they managed just one shot on target in the absence of Cole Palmer, with the Premier League's joint-leading goalscorer missing out due to illness.

Asked about the impact of losing Palmer, Pochettino added: "It wasn't the reason we lost the game, but you lose such a creative player that helps to play in the lines. 

"It's difficult to lose players in these circumstances – that made the management very difficult. But today was more than that.

"We didn't compete from the beginning and it was difficult to be in the game against a team fighting for the Premier League. It's no coincidence. 

"We need to compete in a different way but we are talking too much. We want to be in a different position next season. We need to take decisions."

Kai Havertz scored twice against his former club as Arsenal tightened their grip on top spot in the Premier League by denting Chelsea’s European aspirations with a thumping 5-0 win.

Gunners forward Havertz, who made a £65million switch from Stamford Bridge last summer, registered two of four second-half goals on a remarkable evening at a jubilant Emirates Stadium.

Defender Ben White also claimed a brace for Mikel Arteta’s title-chasing side, adding to Leandro Trossard’s early opener, as the Blues’ recent resurgence floundered in embarrassing fashion in the absence of key man Cole Palmer.

Victory moved Arsenal three points ahead of second-placed Liverpool having now played one game more, while reigning champions Manchester City sit four points behind with two matches in hand.

Outclassed Chelsea squandered a series of chances, with Nicolas Jackson particularly culpable, as they suffered a first defeat in nine top-flight games and missed the chance to climb to seventh.

Mauricio Pochettino’s men made the short trip across the capital on the back of a painful FA Cup semi-final defeat to Pep Guardiola’s City and without 20-goal top scorer Palmer due to illness.

Blues academy graduate Alfie Gilchrist was handed a first Premier League start as part of four changes, while Arsenal recalled Takehiro Tomiyasu and Thomas Partey.

The Gunners, who suffered a damaging 2-0 loss to Aston Villa in their last home game before exiting the Champions League at the hands of Bayern Munich, began brightly and led inside four minutes.

Declan Rice was afforded time and space to advance deep into opposition territory before slipping in Trossard to escape Gilchrist and fire a low left-footed shot from a tight angle which was allowed to squirm home by Blues goalkeeper Djordje Petrovic.

Chelsea’s evening could quickly have gone downhill but Jackson avoided a potential eighth-minute red card after catching Tomiyasu’s ankle with his studs.

Arsenal, whose players wore black armbands following the death last week of former club chairman Sir Chips Keswick at the age of 84, continued to be the dominant force.

Ex-Chelsea academy player Rice fired narrowly over from the edge of the box following a delightful pirouette, before the visitors almost snatched a fortuitous leveller.

After Jackson outpaced William Saliba down the left wing, his attempted cut back deflected off Gabriel and struck the outside of the near post.

Petrovic then atoned for his costly early error by denying Havertz and, moments later, pulling off a fine reaction save to repel Trossard’s effort which took a hefty touch off Axel Disasi.

A pulsating, end-to-end encounter showed little sign of relenting.

Gunners defender White produced a crucial block to deny Marc Cucurella after good work from Noni Madueke, before Enzo Fernandez side-footed the rebound just wide.

Jackson inexplicably handled a golden headed chance from Conor Gallagher’s cross as a breathless opening period finished with a flurry of yellow cards, including one for Arteta.

The Arsenal boss would have been keen for his side to kill off the contest as quickly as possible – and duly got his wish.

Petrovic saved well from Rice and Havertz before the hosts secured breathing space seven minutes after the restart.

Following a short corner between Bukayo Saka and Martin Odegaard, Rice was again denied – this time by the leg of Gallagher – only for the unmarked White to sweep in the loose ball.

The result was put beyond doubt just five minutes later, with the identity of the goalscorer particularly painful for the travelling fans.

Havertz, who scored Chelsea’s winner in the 2021 Champions League final, was superbly released by Odegaard and held off Cucurella to lift the ball over Petrovic, sparking wild scenes in the stands followed by taunts aimed at the away end.

Jackson’s wasteful evening continued as he hit the side-netting with only David Raya to beat before Arsenal piled on the misery for former Tottenham boss Pochettino.

Havertz doubled his tally in the 65th minute by firing home via the right post after receiving the ball from Saka.

White replicated the Germany international’s achievement only five minutes later when his attempted volley across goal from Odegaard’s dinked pass inadvertently flew into the top left corner to cap a humiliating outing for Chelsea.

Pep Guardiola admits Chelsea’s former Manchester City starlet Cole Palmer has been one of the players of the season.

The City manager has also revealed the 21-year-old England midfielder had been trying to leave the Etihad Stadium for two years prior to his £42.5million switch to Stamford Bridge last summer.

Palmer, who was considered one of City’s brightest Academy products, has been Chelsea’s most influential performer since he moved south in search of more first-team opportunities.

Palmer has scored 25 goals this season, 11 of which have come in his last six appearances.

He heads into Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final showdown with former club City at Wembley fresh from a four-goal salvo against Everton on Monday.

Guardiola said: “Cole has been the decisive player, maybe of the season, in many aspects.

“He’s an exceptional player. We knew that when he was here.

“We know how he’s proving (himself), but he has had a lot of minutes. I said many times, I didn’t give him the minutes when maybe he deserved it. He wanted the minutes he now has at Chelsea.

“I understand completely. I’m happy for him because he’s a lovely guy, a shy guy. He has an incredible potential, otherwise he would not have been here.

“He’s playing good. He’s an incredible threat. He’s playing fantastically.”

Palmer was a member of the City squad that won the treble last season and he began the current campaign strongly with goals for Guardiola’s side in the Community Shield and European Super Cup.

Yet despite attempts to persuade the Wythenshawe-born player to stay with his hometown club, his mind to move on before the end of the summer transfer window had long been made up.

Guardiola said: “So what can I say? The decision has been made for many reasons. He was asking for two seasons to leave.

“I said, ‘No, stay’. At the end, (he said), ‘No, I want to leave’. What can we do? I said in pre-season, ‘Stay because Riyad (Mahrez) has gone’. He said, ‘No, I want to leave’.

“After two seasons, what can you say? So go there. Playing at that level is exceptional. Everybody knows it.”

City’s hopes of winning a second successive treble were dashed on Wednesday as they suffered an agonising penalty shoot-out defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter-finals.

Their focus is now on defending the domestic double, a feat no side has previously achieved, but Guardiola prefers not to view the targets in those terms.

Guardiola said: “We were close again (to the treble) but it didn’t happen.

“So my advice about trebles or doubles or these things is, why are we not focused on Chelsea? It’s enough of a target to think about.

“When you have one or two games left to the end of the Premier League and you are already in the FA Cup final, I can answer you perfectly.

“We’ve felt, two times, how strong Chelsea are. They are really, really difficult.

“So, win that game and see what happens the next three, four, five games in the Premier League and after we will see.”

Mauricio Pochettino believes Cole Palmer will go into Chelsea’s FA Cup semi-final with Manchester City on Saturday with nothing to prove to his former employers, insisting he is the right manager to help the 21-year-old continue his stunning ascendancy.

Palmer, who left Chelsea’s Wembley opponents in a £42.5million deal in the summer, is joint top scorer in the Premier League after his four goals in Monday’s 6-0 demolition of Everton moved him level with City’s Erling Haaland on 20 for the season.

He has netted an incredible seven times in the team’s last two home games, including a hat-trick in the breathless 4-3 win over Manchester United when two of his goals came in the 10th and 11th minutes of stoppage time.

He previously scored from the penalty spot in the fifth minute of added time to snatch a point in a 4-4 draw when City visited west London in November.

Palmer has previously stated his decision to leave the champions – for whom he scored twice in August in the Community Shield and UEFA Super Cup – was based on the belief he would get more first-team game time at Chelsea.

That decision has been thoroughly vindicated, with his performances for Mauricio Pochettino’s frustratingly inconsistent side placing him in the reckoning for the PFA Player of the Year award.

His odds on winning the award have been slashed by as much as half with some bookmakers since his Everton haul.

But his manager said there was no possibility the England international would face City with an axe to grind.

“It’s his first consistent season playing, we need to be careful because he’s still young, he’s growing,” said Pochettino.

“He’s already played twice (against City) in the Premier League. He’s very grateful for Manchester City, with Pep Guardiola. He always talks very highly of them.

“He’s not the type of player that has something inside (to prove). He understood perfectly that for different reasons he wanted to prove himself in another club.

“He’s not the type of person to wants to prove something against his former club.”

Prior to joining Chelsea, Palmer had played only 19 senior league games spread over three seasons, and had not scored in the Premier League.

Yet he is now a genuine contender to deprive his former team-mate Haaland of the Golden Boot won by the Norwegian last season.

There is also the growing prospect of his being selected in Gareth Southgate’s squad for Euro 2024 in Germany this summer.

“He has to absorb the pressure to play in the Premier League consistently,” said Pochettino, who previously enjoyed success at Tottenham stewarding young talents though their early years, including England captain Harry Kane.

“It’s about the demands in his private life. He is top scorer. He maybe needs to pay attention to different things than before. That’s going to have an influence on how he is going to prepare himself, how he’s going to rest and going to sleep, how he spends his energy.

“We need to be careful. We have the experience to manage this type of thing, when a young kid becomes a big star. Why is he not performing in a few months? Because his life has changed. He needs to learn from this experience that is completely different to the past.”

Cole Palmer is an “absolute genius” who could help England win Euro 2024, according to former international Joe Cole.

Palmer has lit up the Premier League following his move to Chelsea from Manchester City, scoring 20 goals and notching nine assists in a brilliant breakout season.

The 21-year-old is a contender to win the Golden Boot ahead of former City team-mate Erling Haaland and looks set to be on the plane as Gareth Southgate’s men try to earn Euros glory this summer.

 

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Palmer, who has won two caps, was not involved in last month’s friendlies against Brazil and Belgium due to injury, but Cole believes he can be the difference-maker in Germany.

“He has been sensational and there is an argument he could be Player of the Year – that’s how good he has been,” Cole told the PA news agency.

“You have to bring a player of that quality.

“The technicians are what are going to win us the tournament. They all have to go and they all have to have time on the pitch.

“Palmer is a top player. I have watched him play and he is a top, top player.

“Cole Palmer is an absolute genius.”

Cole is also impressed by Palmer’s mentality, highlighted by his refusal to hand a penalty over to squabbling team-mates Nicolas Jackson and Noni Madueke, despite already scoring a hat-trick in the 6-0 win over Everton.

Palmer kept his cool and scored a fourth to take his tally to 20 for the season.

Cole added: “It’s fantastic he has got that mindset – he is not a wallflower.

“He is a proper player, he will go anywhere on the pitch and take the ball, he backs himself.

“Sometimes people can look at that with disdain, saying it’s arrogance. It’s not arrogance. We need it and we need more players like that.”

Palmer is a special inclusion in Topps’ UEFA EURO 2024 sticker collection, where he is featured in the ‘Artist of the Game’ category.

Cole said of collecting stickers: “It is a rite of passage. Everyone who loves football gets to that stage where you are collecting.

 

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“It’s such a great thing to do, the trading, the anticipation of who you are going to get, who you need.

“It is just a great social thing for kids to do. It becomes nostalgic, it’s something that our parents did and our kids do, it’s part of our culture.”

:: Joe Cole was speaking to mark the launch of Topps’ official UEFA EURO 2024™ sticker collection, which is available to buy now.

There is a thrilling three-horse race for the Premier League title as we approach the run-in, but there is also another tussle on the cards.

The Golden Boot is up for grabs, with Erling Haaland having not quite hit the same heights as he did last season, when he broke the Premier League record for goals, with 36.

Manchester City star Haaland is, as it stands, level with his former club-mate Cole Palmer at the top of the competition’s scoring charts, with 20 goals apiece.

Palmer, who will go up against his old club in the FA Cup semi-finals this weekend, moved way up in the charts after he netted four times in Chelsea’s 6-0 rout of Everton on Monday.

But with Palmer and Haaland in FA Cup action, there are plenty of other Golden Boot candidates looking to take advantage and nudge themselves to the front of the pack.

Using Opta data, we assess the numbers behind the players vying for this individual accolade.

Erling Haaland (20)

Sure, Haaland might not quite have scaled the same heights as last season, but he has still scored 20 goals in 26 league games, scoring a goal every 109 minutes on average.

However, the Norwegian has actually underperformed his expected goals (xG) of 23.7 – that 3.7 differential is actually the biggest xG underperformance of any player on this list.

What about Haaland’s expected goals on target (xGOT)? That metric can be used to measure the quality of a player’s finishing, and Haaland’s xGOT of 20.3 suggests the 23-year-old is about on track based on where he has been placing his shots.

Haaland has also chipped in with five assists, giving him an overall goal contributions tally of 25. He has created 28 goalscoring chances for team-mates across the campaign.

Of course, Haaland is a penalty box poacher – 16 of his goals have come from inside the area, while 14 of them have come with his stronger left foot.

 

Cole Palmer (20)

Palmer has stolen the show this season for Chelsea, and is arguably the Blues’ driving force behind their push for European football.

Having signed from City last summer, Palmer has made an instant impact despite only playing 27 times – he averages a goal every 103 minutes, which is better than any of the other candidates featured here.

He scored a perfect hat-trick in the first half of the demolition of Everton, before adding a fourth from the penalty spot after the break – that was Palmer’s ninth successfully converted spot-kick in the league this term.

Unlike Haaland, Palmer has overperformed his xG (15), with his non-penalty xG coming in at 7.9, while also proving his creative talents with nine assists from 53 chances created, which ranks behind only Mohamed Salah (60) of players featured here.

Those 29 goal contributions are matched by only one other Premier League player…

Ollie Watkins (19)

One goal behind Palmer and Haaland, and someone who will be looking to get ahead when Aston Villa face Bournemouth on Sunday, is England international Watkins.

A deft chip in Villa’s brilliant 2-0 win over Arsenal last time out brought up Watkins’ 19th top-flight goal of the campaign – he is now the club’s joint-leading scorer in a single season in the Premier League, matching Christian Benteke (2012-13).

 

What separates Watkins from Palmer and Haaland is his minutes per goal ratio – Watkins has netted every 147 minutes on average, which is 44 minutes worse off than Palmer and 38 than Haaland.

However, with 10 assists, the former Brentford forward leads the goal contributions charts along with Palmer. Interestingly, however, Watkins’ assists have come from an expected assists (xA) of just 3.6, suggesting he has been the benefactor of some particularly excellent finishing from his Villa team-mates.

A goal against Bournemouth on Sunday would see Watkins become just the third English player to score 20+ goals and assist 10+ goals in a 38-game season, along with Frank Lampard in 2009-10 (22 goals, 14 assists) and Harry Kane in 2020-21 (23 goals, 14 assists)

Watkins has proved to be a deadly finisher under Unai Emery, though the trick for opposing defences could be to prevent him getting space in the area to begin with, given that all 19 of his goals have come from inside the box. Obviously, that is easier said than done.

Mohamed Salah (17)

Liverpool will be hoping to bounce back from their damaging defeat to Crystal Palace last week when they take on Fulham on Sunday, and key to the Reds’ clinching success in Jurgen Klopp’s farewell tour will surely be the form of Salah.

Since sustaining an injury at the Africa Cup of Nations, Salah has not quite hit top form, but he has still netted 17 goals across 26 league appearances this term, though five of those have been penalties.

 

With an xGOT of 18.4, Salah can point to some above average goalkeeping as a reason for a small underperformance.

Creatively, Salah has been excellent, providing nine assists and crafting 60 opportunities, but the Reds will need him at his very best in the run-in.

Alexander Isak (17)

Isak was at the double in Newcastle United’s 4-0 thrashing of Tottenham last time out. He has now scored 12 goals in as many Premier League appearances at St James’ Park this season.

His opener against Spurs saw him become the fourth player to score in six consecutive Premier League home matches for Newcastle, with only Andrew Cole (eight) and Alan Shearer (15) having longer such runs, with Isak now level with Les Ferdinand’s best such run. The only other Swede to have netted as many Premier League goals in a single campaign as Isak has this term is the great Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who scored 17 times for Manchester United in 2016-17.

Only Palmer has a better minutes per goal ratio than Isak (104) of the players on this list, while he has overperformed his xG by 1.1.

Isak has not provided quite as much creatively as others on this list, providing just one assist, but his 28.3 per cent shot conversion rate tops this list by some distance, with Palmer (24.4) next best.

Dominic Solanke (17)

Another player on 17 goals, and the final selection here, is Bournemouth talisman Solanke.

His 18.1 per cent shot conversion rate may short fall of the other stars on this list, but Solanke is having a fantastic season, having become Bournemouth’s top Premier League goalscorer in a single campaign, surpassing Joshua King’s tally of 16 from the 2016-17 season.

Only one of Solanke’s strikes has come from the spot, with the 26-year-old outperforming his 15.7 non-penalty xG, though his minutes per goal ratio of 167 is quite a stark drop-off from most of his Golden Boot rivals.

The Chasing Pack

Former Golden Boot winner Son Heung-min (15), Jarrod Bowen (15), Bukayo Saka (14) and Phil Foden (14) are all well in the hunt.

The fact that 10 players are within six goals of each other shows just how tight this Golden Boot race is shaping up to be, though the chasing pack are running out of time if they are to make a late push for the award.

Cole Palmer has joined Erling Haaland at the top of the Premier League goal-scorer’s chart after adding four more to his tally in Chelsea’s 6-0 thrashing of Everton.

The Chelsea midfielder surged alongside Manchester City goal machine Haaland in the race for the Golden Boot, with both players currently on 20 in the top flight this season.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at the top six contenders for the award as the 2023-24 Premier League campaign enters the run-in.

Golden Boot battle

Cole Palmer (Chelsea) – 20 goals in 28 appearances

The 21-year-old’s remarkable first season at Chelsea just keeps getting better. Palmer, who did not score a league goal for Manchester City, has notched 10 in his last five league matches, rocketing into Golden Boot contention.

Erling Haaland (Man City) – 20 goals in 26 appearances

Haaland set the Premier League ablaze in 2022-23, claiming a new record of 36 goals in a season. The 23-year-old started like a train again this season before missing five games with a foot injury. Since returning in January he has scored six in 11 appearances, underwhelming by his standards, but the Norway hit man remains a heavy favourite to retain the Golden Boot.

Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa) – 19 goals in 32 appearances

Watkins is enjoying his most prolific season in the top flight, already surpassing his 15 goals from last season, while also providing the most assists (10) of those on this list. The 28-year-old’s current goal conversion rate is better than Haaland’s and he will be hoping to feature for England at the Euros.

Alexander Isak (Newcastle) – 17 goals in 24 appearances

Isak has more than justified Newcastle’s outlay of around £60million after a thigh injury limited his impact in his first campaign at St James’ Park. The 24-year-old is the first Newcastle player since Alan Shearer in 2003-04 to score 20 goals in a season for the club in all competitions.

Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – 17 goals in 26 appearances

Salah has won the Golden Boot on three occasions during his stellar Liverpool career and has scored 20 top-flight goals or more in four of his six previous seasons at the club. The Egypt forward is on course to make that five in seven.

Dominic Solanke (Bournemouth) – 17 goals in 32 appearances

When Solanke struck the opener in last weekend’s 2-2 draw at Manchester United he broke the record for the most Premier League goals scored in a single season by a Bournemouth player. The 26-year-old has produced his best form under Andoni Iraola and could force his way into England’s plans for the Euros.

Southgate’s sharp-shooters

Gareth Southgate must be filled with excitement when he looks at the top 10 scorers in the Premier League this season, with six England players on the list.

Palmer only made his England debut in November but his astonishing form for Chelsea must surely earn him a spot in the squad for this summer’s Euro 2024.

Watkins could find himself in a straight shoot-out with Ivan Toney for the spot as back-up striker to Bayern Munich’s Harry Kane, while Solanke has just one England cap to his name back in 2017.

Further down the scoring charts, West Ham’s Jarrod Bowen has enjoyed a stellar campaign with 15 goals while Manchester City midfielder Phil Foden has netted 10 goals since Christmas to take his tally to 14 overall.

Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka, a certain starter for England in Germany injury permitting, also has 14 goals to further add to their firepower.

And when Kane’s 43 goals in all competitions for Bayern and Jude Bellingham’s 22 for Real Madrid are factored in, Southgate’s side are an exciting prospect.

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