On the day that the Premier League returns, the next of our series examining individual players’ 2019/20 in detail focuses on Emerson Palmieri.
The left-back has already played more minutes for Chelsea in 2019/20 than either of his previous two seasons at Stamford Bridge, spending large spells of the campaign as Frank Lampard’s first choice on the left side of our defence.
His promising start to the season was interrupted by a niggling injury, but he returned to reclaim his place in the side, remaining the left-back of choice in a back four for most of 2019.
Emerson slipped down the pecking order a bit at the start of this year, but has undoubtedly been thriving in the more attacking tactical set-up at Chelsea this season.
Emerson Palmieri: 18 appearances (two as a sub)
‘With Frank, we’re trying to play very direct football, always trying to attack and be as close to the goal as possible. We’re looking to get our centre-forwards into the game so that means lots of crosses into the area and balls into them. The message is all about intensity and direct, offensive football. I’m really enjoying the fact we’re playing this way in such an offensive style.’
That was Emerson speaking ahead of our first win of the season, at Norwich City in August. By that point, it had become clear that the Italian international was starting the campaign in possession of the left-back’s spot in Lampard’s line-up, and was clearly relishing the attacking licence he was being given.
The aggressive pressing and fast attacks our head coach was keen to build his Chelsea side around have been well suited to Emerson’s qualities. His pace on and off the ball allows him to stay involved in play at both ends of the pitch, while his eagerness to deliver crosses into the box has helped him capitalise on those quick breaks to provide ammunition for the likes of Tammy Abraham and Olivier Giroud before defences get settled.
His differing characteristics from Marcos Alonso have also proved important to the flexible shape Lampard has used, particularly in the first half of the season, when Emerson’s pace and finesse were often used on the left of a back four, with Alonso’s more powerful approach preferred when a back three and wing-backs were required.
Having had to be patient in his first full season with the Blues, at the beginning of 2019/20 he started our first five games in a row, at that time his longest run in the team since joining us from Roma in January 2017.
His compatibility with Lampard’s system was underlined early on, in our home draw with Leicester City in the second Premier League fixture of the campaign.
He topped the Chelsea statistics for passes, successful dribbles and tackles won, highlighting the all-action style he was producing in attack and defence, while nobody on the pitch spent as much time in possession that day as Emerson.
That was the way it stayed for the early stages of the campaign, with the Italian playing every single minute of our matches up until the first international break in September, showing that even with no new signings over the summer, there were still exciting new options in Lampard’s squad.
It was unfortunate timing for Emerson that he picked up an injury in action with Italy during that international break, just as he was hitting his stride. That kept him out of our Premier League fixture at Wolverhampton Wanderers and Champions League opener against Valencia, but he returned to the starting line-up when we faced Liverpool.
However, it turned out his eagerness to pick up where he left off in the team had worked against him, as he soon aggravated the injury and was forced off after just 15 minutes against the Reds, this time leading to more than a month out of action.
‘Emerson is a similar injury to what he had, with a muscle,’ explained Lampard. ‘When you do that it means you’ve come back too soon. That’s not a slight on Emerson, everyone wants to play this game, fair play.’
Thankfully, he was back in the team with no further set-backs at the start of November, being named on the bench against Ajax before coming into the starting line-up to help us beat Watford at Vicarage Road.
With a couple of brief exceptions, Emerson held on to his grip on the left-back’s spot for the rest of 2019, being rewarded with a long-overdue Champions League debut as a substitute in the draw with Valencia before getting his first start in the competition when we beat Lille in December.
Like some of his team-mates, Emerson found our dip in form in December combined with Lampard’s squad rotation during the busy end to the year to be costly. Despite a strong showing against Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup third round, the emergence of Reece James at right-back and the subsequent shifting of Cesar Azpilicueta to the left side of our defence saw Emerson reduced to the role of substitute at the start of 2020.
He was back in the starting line-up for our 2-2 draw with Arsenal at the end of January, but that remains his last appearance for the Blues, as James and Alonso’s form has kept them largely ahead of the Brazilian-born full-back in the competition for a place in the team.
Emerson Palmieri Premier League stats 2019/20
Emerson Palmieri stats
Emerson Palmieri Premier League appearances 2019/20
Emerson has played 14 times in the Premier League for Chelsea this season, one of which was as a substitute, when he came on against Newcastle United in January.
Emerson Palmieri Champions League appearances 2019/20
Emerson has featured in two of our Champions League games this season, starting the win over Lille at Stamford Bridge and coming off the bench in the draw at Valencia.
Emerson Palmieri FA Cup appearances 2019/20
Emerson has appeared once in the FA Cup this season, playing the whole of our third-round victory over Nottingham Forest.
Emerson Palmieri League Cup appearances 2019/20
Emerson did not feature in our Carabao Cup campaign.
Emerson Palmieri goals 2019/20
Emerson has not yet scored for Chelsea this season.
Click here to read the other editions of our Season So Far player review series.