Alvaro Morata’s form this season has been well below his best, but his movement and finishing was of the highest calibre as he scored twice, a reaction finish from close range and a well-placed shot in the second half.
Crystal Palace threatened to upset the home side when Andros Townsend kept his cool to cancel out Morata’s opening goal, but Chelsea’s quality was too much and the Spaniard restored the lead before Pedro completed the job.
Sarri edges closer to Premier League history
Chelsea’s victory against Crystal Palace extends their unbeaten start in the league to 11 matches, which means that Sarri has equalled former Nottingham Forest manager Frank Clark’s record of being unbeaten in his first 11 Premier League matches.
The statistic alone is not one to get carried away with, but the significance is that Chelsea are onto something here. Sarri’s side are playing even better football than when he took over and there appears to be no stopping it.
What is also important is the sides Chelsea have played. Arsenal and Manchester United could not find a way to beat his team and there appears to be no evidence of them slipping up against the lesser sides, in fact, they continue to blow them away.
Morata continues resurgence
It’s a slight resurgence, granted, but after initially failing to fully convince Sarri that he can be trusted to lead the line for Chelsea, he seems to be working back towards the striker that started the season last year so well.
As well as taking his goal well, a finish from close range to convert Pedro’s low cross, his high pressing and aggression provided Sarri with a reminder of why he might be the better option to Olivier Giroud.
If his first goal was one of relief, the second was sheer joy. The Spaniard’s celebrations lasted long after his left-footed strike restored Chelsea’s lead in the second half and this performance could be a catalyst for him to rediscover his best form.
‘He scores when he wants’ was the somewhat ironic chant given his form this season from the home supporters, and to come extent they are right. When he is playing with confidence his movement and finishing makes him untouchable, it’s just a case of now doing this over a longer spell. His late miss for his hat-trick, when attempting to lob the ball over Wayne Hennessey, proved just as much.
No forward, no problem
Crystal Palace scored their first goal from open play since the first day of October when Townsend collected a one-two from James McArthur and fired low effort beyond Kepa. This was a product of playing Zaha and Townsend as a central forward pair in an unconventional 4-4-2.
The system worked well last season and remains Hodgson’s answer to Palace’s striker vacancy. Zaha and Townsend simultaneously dropped when the side got possession in the central area which created space for one of them to run beyond the defence after forcing Luiz and Antonio Rudiger to alter from their flat line.
Jordan Ayew and Alexander Sorloth have been used in bit-part roles in the absence of Christian Benteke while he recovers from injury, but just as it as at Stamford Bridge, the reserve forwards may be set for longer on the bench.
Are Chelsea over-reliant on Hazard?
There is no question that Eden Hazard is the best player in the Premier League at the moment, so when Palace equalised it was no surprise that Sarri broke the emergency glass lever and brought on their talisman.
Ten minutes after coming on along with Mateo Kovacic, Sarri’s other trusted substitute when things are going wrong, Chelsea had scored two and put the game beyond Palace. As it turned out Chelsea were not dependent on Hazard, just as they did not miss him when they put four past Burnley without reply.
Sarri will be delighted to see his forwards, particularly Pedro, have such an influential and important say in the result without Hazard.
Meyer is the playmaker that Crystal Palace have been missing
Scoring goals has been a problem for Crystal Palace since their most recent promotion, but Max Meyer’s signing on a free in the summer after he opted not to stay at Schalke has finally given them the creative player they have been lacking.
Palace had largely been reliant on keeping things tight and using Zaha’s pace and trickery to get them on the board, but now they have something different. Meyer’s technical ability stands tall above his teammates and Palace need to capitalise on this as he continues to ease his way into the side.
The 23-year-old wasted no time in attacking Cesar Azpilicueta on the left-wing and played a precise pass to Zaha in a dangerous area, a good block from David Luiz was needed in order to prevent the winger scoring.