The Champions League trophy and the Super Cup were on display at Stamford Bridge before Chelsea’s stroll to victory over Crystal Palace. The silverware glittered in the sun. Thomas Tuchel’s team shone, too. The European champions dispatched Patrick Vieira’s side with the minimum of fuss.
Two first-half goals from Marcos Alonso and Christian Pulisic meant Chelsea never really had to build up a sweat. Trevoh Chalobah, the academy graduate making his Premier League debut, added a third after the break. It was all too easy.
A long winter lies ahead but the promise of more glory hung in the warm west London air. With Romelu Lukaku waiting in the wings and options galore in the squad, Tuchel cannot fail to be optimistic. Chelsea were bright, their passing and movement were sharp and they allowed Palace little room to gain a foothold in the game.
Vieira, by contrast, must have felt a shiver. The Frenchman said before the game that his team will need time to adjust. With their 4-4-2 setup and lack of ambition it looked like Roy Hodgson had picked the side. Their lack of ambition and general aimlessness bodes badly for the season.
The visiting side were initially compact in the middle but left space out wide, especially on the left, where they allowed Alonso to have plenty of the ball. This was a dangerous ploy: the Spaniard was given the time and room to pick out Pulisic, who should have done better than to glance his header into Vicente Guaita’s arms. Things unravelled quickly for the defence.
Joel Ward needed help. Jordan Ayew tried to provide it but was sometimes more of a hindrance. The forward gave away a free kick on the edge of the area and Mason Mount tried to catch Guaita napping. The goalkeeper punched away but there was a distinct feeling that Palace were out of their depth.
The inevitable goal came after 27 minutes. Palace continued to concede too many free kicks around the box and Alonso took advantage when a foul was given on the right. The 30-year-old, who was too adventurous for Frank Lampard’s liking but suits Tuchel’s approach, curled in a splendid effort from 20 yards out that left Guaita with no chance.
The home side doubled their lead 13 minutes later, cutting through the defence with almost casual ease. Mount exchanged passes with Cesar Azpilicueta, drove into the area and fired in a cross. Guaita got to the ball but could not clear and Pulisic was in the ideal position to score.
Palace had an opportunity early in the second half. Wilfried Zaha ran free on goal but the striker’s body language was unconvincing as he ran into the area. The 28-year-old can be prone to the occasional sulk and his exasperation was on show again. Zaha has been Palace’s talisman and sometimes saviour for too long. The burden is telling more and more.
The chance did little more than wake up Chelsea. They attacked down the left and Palace were static and hopelessly lopsided. The defence watched as the ball was rolled across to Chalobah 40 yards out.
The 22-year-old had an age to assess his options and he decided, given the lack of pressure, to advance to the edge of the area and shoot. His aim was perfect and the ball flew into the bottom corner.
Chalobah, who has been with the club since he was eight years old, was deployed on the right side of a back three and acquitted himself well, although Palace allowed him to have an easy afternoon. The versatile youngster has plenty of potential but will surely not have many easier afternoons.
For Tuchel it is merely a matter of fine-tuning his team and creating the right balance. Palace look destined for a relegation battle.
The running story of the new season is likely to be the struggle between the haves and have-nots. Chelsea possess a multitude of riches. Palace, on this evidence, have very little going for them.
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