Cole Palmer of Chelsea (R) celebrates with teammate Enzo Fernandez after scoring their second goal during the Premier League match against Newcastle United on March 11. (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

LONDON -- It's that time of year when the conversation turns to assessing the Premier League's signing of the season and it will take a compelling argument to suggest that anybody but Chelsea's Cole Palmer deserves that distinction. Another goal and assist in Monday's 3-2 win against Newcastle only served to hammer home his credentials.

Chelsea have certainly made enough signings during the last two windows to get at least one right, but Palmer, who sealed a £40 million transfer from Manchester City on deadline day last September, has been a revelation.

- Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)

The 21-year-old has had 19 goal involvements in the Premier League for Chelsea this season -- 11 goals and eight assists -- and in terms of players aged 21 or under in Europe's big five leagues, only Jude Bellingham at Real Madrid has registered as many goal involvements as his England teammate.

Arsenal fans will argue that Declan Rice has eclipsed Palmer during his first season at the Emirates following his £105 million switch from West Ham, but the size of Rice's fee, in comparison to Palmer's, rules out the Gunners midfielder. Dominik Szoboszlai, Alexis Mac Allister and Wataru Endo have made a big impact at Liverpool and Micky van de Ven has transformed Tottenham's defense, but when everything is considered, no new signing has been as important to their new team as Palmer.

Chelsea's struggles this season have been well-documented and this win against Newcastle was still not enough to lift them into the top half of the Premier League table. But had they not been able to rely on Palmer's goals and his ability to create them, a bad season would have been a whole lot worse for Mauricio Pochettino's side.

2 Related

"He's doing well," Pochettino said in his post-match press conference. "He arrived on the last day of the window, but it was so easy for him to adapt to the demands of the team. He is showing his quality and it is good to have him in the team. We didn't have a player who could link (play), but he is doing fantastic and getting better with every game."

Palmer, whose elegance on and off the ball has clearly been enhanced by his years in City's Academy, has become Chelsea's poster-boy and their talisman.

Against Newcastle, he thought he had opened the scoring on six minutes when his low left-foot shot from 20 yards beat goalkeeper Martin Dúbravka, but replays showed that the slightest of touches from Nicolas Jackson diverted the ball into the net. Still, it was Palmer's creativity and ambition which led to the goal and that has been a common thread through their season.

In contrast, Raheem Sterling, the first big signing of the club's new ownership regime in the summer of 2022, continues to search for the form that Palmer has displayed from day one at Stamford Bridge.

Sterling's England career is clearly over, judging by his ongoing absence from Gareth Southgate's squads, but if the national manager had any lingering doubts about the former Liverpool and City forward, they would have been erased by his latest disappointing performance in this game.

It was a different story with Palmer, though. He simply makes things happen with his movement, passing or readiness to shoot when half a chance emerges. With Alexander Isak equalising for Newcastle on 43 minutes following a Miguel Almirón assist, Palmer put Chelsea back in control when he made it 2-1 on 57 minutes with a left-footed strike that arrowed into the net, this time without a deflection.

No matter how this season ends, it will not be judged as a success by Chelsea. They may yet win the FA Cup -- Pochettino's team face EFL Championship leaders Leicester at home in the quarterfinals on Sunday -- but they have no prospect of qualifying for the Champions League, so the financial impact of that will be felt in the transfer window and beyond.

But Palmer offers a glimmer of hope of a brighter future alongside the likes of Malo Gusto, Conor Gallagher and Enzo Fernández.

"There's so much talent around Chelsea that the fans don't see and you [the media] don't see," Palmer told Sky Sports after the game. "If not next season, the season after, you will see it sooner or later."

Persuading Gallagher to sign a new contract and stay at the club this summer will be crucial for Pochettino's rebuilding plans, but equally important will be the challenge of getting Romeo Lavia and Christopher Nkunku fit enough to offer more than the limited contributions they have managed this season.

"The problem is that the team needs to be more mature, play more time together," Pochettino told reporters. "We need to understand we are Chelsea and when we are under pressure, its completely different. But we are trying to explain that we are in a different Chelsea, building something different and it will be tough."

Mykhailo Mudryk is another who could yet prove to be value for money having struggled to justify his £88 million transfer fee since arriving from Shakhtar Donetsk in Jan. 2023. Mudryk made the win safe for Chelsea by scoring in the 76th minute -- a goal which rendered Jacob Murphy's stunning 90th minute response as nothing more than a late consolation for Newcastle.

Mudryk is one of many Chelsea players who still have to live up to expectations, but in the Stamford Bridge locker room, only Palmer has exceeded them. He is the shining light of Chelsea's array of young, and often expensive, talent. If Pochettino can motivate more to perform like Palmer, Chelsea will be a much more competitive team next season.