Chelsea: Mauricio Pochettino responds to Cole Palmer criticism in debate over best position

Mauricio Pochettino says Cole Palmer's best position is simply "on the pitch".

The Argentine started the 20-year-old up front against Aston Villa, but he was wasteful with some of Chelsea's best chances in the 0-0 draw in the FA Cup fourth-round at Stamford Bridge.

It raises the question about where Palmer is most effective, having played as a striker, on the wings and as a central attacking midfielder.

Asked where he prefers to see Palmer, who is both Chelsea's best creator and top scorer, he simply answered: "I prefer him on the pitch at the moment!"

He added: "But be careful because after [reading this] he may feel he will [always] play! He is still young and needs to improve and to keep performing this way."

Pochettino explained why Palmer has misfired as a No9, explaining he thinks it is simply a coincidence: "No, I think he cannot score in every single game. If he did, we should maybe not call him Cole Palmer, we should call him maybe Leo [Messi].

"No, it is not about his position - and his potential is massive. It's just sometimes you score or not. Sometimes you have better nights but he is doing well.

"He is a player who can play in different positions and you can see and feel that we never talk about his performances because he is always doing really good. It's just that sometimes he scores or doesn't score, but he always finds amazing chances in the game."

Meanwhile, defender Alfie Gilchrist has been the breakout star in the last month and performed well in his first start against Premier League opposition.

Pochettino is ready to give more academy youngsters opportunities with plenty of Chelsea stars still out injured.

"For me, it is always important, if you see my career as a coach at Espanyol, Tottenham and Paris or now," he continued.

"It is really important for the identity of the club. It's so important because this guy really feels the shirt and badge. It's always a mix but having some guys is important for the club's identity.

"We are in Chelsea and we should win so there is sometimes no time but these types of opportunities when you have some injured players. They need to be ready and we need to be ready to help them take these opportunities. Yes, that's also our responsibility to the club."