Emerson Palmieri spent considerable time on the bench at Chelsea and Kaustubh Pandey explains why the former Roma man remains Roberto Mancini’s No.1 option at left-back.
It is sometimes easy to forget that Chelsea’s Emerson Palmieri is still 26-years-old. The manner in which his career has hurtled on isn’t exceptional or entertaining, but he retains a high reputation in the Italy setup because of his profile.
The last three seasons haven’t been great for Emerson at Chelsea. While he’s one of those rare players to have plied his trade under two Italian bosses at Stamford Bridge – Antonio Conte and Maurizio Sarri – Emerson has seen his place usurped by the likes of Marcos Alonso and more recently, Ben Chilwell. His best spell at the club perhaps came under Sarri, as he became an important part of the side that won the Europa League in 2019 as the left-back made 11 appearances and got two assists.
Emerson did start the season under Frank Lampard but after a hamstring injury, lost his place and following a short return, failed to make the squad multiple times towards the end of the 2019-20 campaign. Under Thomas Tuchel too, appearances have been few and far between, leading to constant questions about his future. Signed by Conte six months before he left Stamford Bridge, those questions have, in truth, lingered since Sarri joined the club.
Despite all that, the 26-year-old has now played more at Chelsea than he did at Roma and in recent months, he’s been Roberto Mancini’s preferred option at left-back too. Fiorentina’s Cristiano Biraghi and Roma’s Leonardo Spinazzola do offer options in the position, but Emerson has a more complete profile than Biraghi, whose case relies on his crossing ability, and Spinazzola’s tendency to cut inside on his stronger right foot.
He can be better in one-on-duels than Biraghi and he can offer more width on the side than the inverted Spinazzola, thus handing Mancini the rare chance of fielding a left-back who can defend and attack and offers decent technical ability as well.
The coaches whom he has operated under at Chelsea have generally demanded more from their left-back, as Conte often wanted to field Alonso because of his ability to play as a proper wing-back. His current boss, Tuchel, wants someone who can shift positions and Lampard was generally undecided. Even though Emerson doesn’t offer anything exuberant or outrageous, he still looks like being Mancini’s first choice for the left-back spot at Euro 2020.