Italian full-back Emerson Palmieri has endured somewhat of a renaissance this season after previously being deemed too small to play effectively in Maurizio Sarri’s system last term.
Said opinion must be tendered with the caveat of having only witnessed the opening weeks of what is a long and arduous campaign, but nonetheless, Frank Lampard seems to have found vindication in sticking by the 25-year-old as the once-revered left-back has posted some truly remarkable statistical performances over the past couple of weeks.
Fans and pundits alike were under no illusions as to the extent of Chelsea’s struggles over the next eight months or so. As such greater precedence has been given to the development of key personnel at Stamford Bridge – with certain individuals, Emerson among them, revelling in the responsibility whilst others flounder.
There is much to be found therefore in the comparisons between Emerson and his Chelsea teammate Kurt Zouma, both of whom were to differing extents cast aside under the previous regime. With a point to prove and an increased burden of expectation to deal with, the pair came into the season with similar ambitions, but their respective starts to the present campaign could not have been more different, and herein lies the comparative point of interest.
Whilst Emerson leads the way amongst the squad for successful touches, duels and tackles Zouma has to date recorded the lowest WhoScored.com rating of any player in the Premier League this season for his dismal display in Chelsea’s 4-0 humbling at the hands of Manchester United.
Twitter: RT @Squawka: ⬢ Most touches
⬢ Most duels won
⬢ Most tackles made
⬢ 2nd-most fouls won
⬢ 2nd-most shots on target
⬢ 2nd-most take-ons comple… (@Squawka)
Stats can, however, be misleading, with high defensive output symptomatic of a team on the back foot who struggle to quickly transition possession out of the defensive phase. But although Chelsea’s defensive woes are well documented this only further highlights Emerson’s growing importance to the side. Not only does he boast such an impressive ability to anticipate the ball, but he has also yet to be dribbled past once this season – the same stat that projected Virgil Van Dijk from expensive object of ridicule to Ballon d’Or favourite in the space of the year.
Emerson will be hard placed to maintain such a feat over the same period as the Dutch centre-half but regardless the accumulation of such staunch statistical evidence in support of his improved defensive discipline.
Alongside his well established attacking capabilities (he ranks second for shots on target in the Chelsea squad) only serves to reinforce the argument that the former Roma stalwart has undergone a drastic transformation somewhat befitting of T.H.White’s Merlin in ‘The Once and Future King’.
The comparison meanwhile between Emerson’s transformation and Zouma’s, one that lends itself more so to the destructive volatility of Jekyll and Hyde than the great and powerful mysticism of Merlin’s metamorphosis, stands to highlight the two different approaches to the sink or swim mentality surrounding the team at this time of uncertainty.
Whilst Zouma has in essence sunk, case and point being his erratic displays which will inevitably see him displaced from the starting XI upon the return of Antonio Rudiger. Emerson, on the other hand, has grasped his opportunity and looks set to write himself into the long-term history of the club.
The jury is still out on whether Lampard’s young team can spearhead a bright future for the embargoed Blues, but fans can at least find comfort in the knowledge that the once fruitful Marcos Alonso experiment can finally be abandoned after years of toil with Emerson now taking the reigns as Chelsea’s first-team left-back.