The major question Chelsea still must answer after Everton demolition job

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
The Blues’ 6-0 win over Everton was overshadowed by an on-field dispute between Cole Palmer and Noni Madueke.

There have been more dignified scraps between famished gulls for discarded chips on windswept seafronts. In truth, those feathered tussles could probably be deemed less glutinous too. And less daft, for that matter.

Noni Madueke, from the bits and pieces we have seen of him during his time at Stamford Bridge, seems like a decent enough character. Until, that is, the moment that Chelsea are awarded a penalty. Then, and only then, he regresses into a toddler-like state, snatching and cajoling, brattish and blinkered, completely naive to the scene he is causing. We’re about two set-pieces away from him pratfalling to the floor and hysterically flailing his limbs around in the name of a performative temper tantrum. If he’s not careful, he could become the first player in history to miss an FPL gameweek because he’s been sent to his room. Without any supper.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

On Monday evening, Chelsea played Everton. That being said, ‘played’ is something of a misnomer. It would be more accurate to suggest that Chelsea ‘disembowelled’ Everton, or ‘made Sean Dyche question every life choice that had led him to take the job at Goodison Park in the first place’. Watching on from the Sky Sports studio was Toffees midfielder Dele Alli, presumably feeling a little like Princess Leia as Darth Vader set the Death Star on Alderaan.

Come the final whistle, Chelsea had scored a half dozen without reply. Cole Palmer, coasting about the place like a Hattifattener with a fresh trim, netted four all by himself. But it was his fourth, a routinely dispatched penalty in the 64th minute, that hooked its claws into timelines and headlines everywhere.

You see, it was at this juncture that Madueke seized the match ball in the puerile hope of convincing his teammates to let him take the kick. They did not. Acting captain Conor Gallagher intervened to detoxify the situation; Nicolas Jackson weighed in to retoxify it. The whole sorry debacle was, in the bluntest of PR speak, not a good look. Speaking in the aftermath of the incident, manager Mauricio Pochettino admitted, with all the conviction of a humbled supply teacher, that he had been left ‘so, so upset’ by what he had witnessed. In direct contrast, when asked whether he was the Blues’ first choice penalty taker, Palmer dead-panned: 'Well, I am now, yes.'

In the coming days, a lot will be made of this. Talking heads employed by cantankerous radio phone-ins will flick spittle onto each other’s cheeks from across soundproofed studios. Pasty journalists with word counts to fill and no real skin in the game will sit at their kitchen tables and scribble down opinion columns like the one you’re reading right now. Maybe it is excessive, maybe it is a justifiable reaction to an obvious and avoidable farce. Whatever stance you settle upon, the long and the short of it comes down to two things; one micro, one macro.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Firstly, if Chelsea are awarded a penalty and Cole Palmer is one the pitch, he should be taking it. No questions asked, no bottom lips quivering. Not only has he scored nine from nine this season, but he is also in the running for the Premier League golden boot. There is no planet in the known and ever-expanding universe on which he is going to relinquish his duty from twelve yards because he has already scored a hat-trick, or because one of his colleagues is in the midst of a hissy fit.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly given Chelsea’s grimly Sisyphean plight, Madueke’s selfish paroxysm feels like a shoe box diorama on where things are repeatedly unravelling in West London. Is this a united dressing room, a proper team fixated on togetherness and steady progress towards a combined aim? Or, as some fear, is this a ragtag creche of individualists obsessed with nothing more than self-aggrandisement? Is Pochettino a Ted Lasso or a Tommy Pickles?

Only those behind the curtain will know for definite - and even then, you suspect they are not entirely certain. Either way, Monday’s public exhibition of discord served as a valid reminder; it cannot be allowed to happen again.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.