Chelsea traveled to Crystal Palace off the back of a rebound win against Porto midweek in the Champions League. This fixture was last played during the restart of the Premier League in Summer 2020, which saw a back and forth game that the Blues ultimately won 3-2.
Christian Pulisic and Kurt Zouma had iconic moments in the 2020 fixture, and that is sufficient foreshadowing for what would happen again in April 2021. The Chelsea squad took a commanding 3-0 early on in the first half and never looked back. What a win for the Blues! The five key things learnt could mean a wealth of momentum for the top four hopes and chasing the UCL and FA Cup.
Kai Havertz emerges with stellar performance against Crystal Palace
What a performance from the young German prodigy. In the first 10 minutes of the match he had a wonderful goal and a decisive assist to Christian Pulisic. This was the match we have all been waiting for, and it felt like that wait lasted a lifetime. The old saying “good things come to those who wait” is the most applicable line to sum up Havertz at Chelsea in 2020-2021.
Havertz was also unlucky to not bag a second goal after he showed an expert amount of skill on the ball to flick it around the Palace defense and fired it on target, but a brilliant save from Vincente Guaita denied this second goal. Havertz was simply unplayable for the Palace defense today, and this is a good omen for the Blues. This form needs to continue now at a crucial time for the Blues season. Hats off Kai! What a way to announce your arrival and form within this Blues squad!
Christian Pulisic Showing Recent Consistency and Talent
A rocket of a goal that was almost a carbon copy of the same the American scored at Palace last season was the key moment for Pulisic. He has now scored in each of his last two Premier League matches, is showing his electric pace, ability on the ball, and seems to be reaching full fitness and talent once again. Blues fans will recall that during the restart last season this same pattern was evident, and it could not be coming at a more crucial time. If not for the bar in the midweek UCL match, Pulisic would have a goal in 3 consecutive matches.
This explosion of form and output is coming at exactly the right time. Fans were questioning if Pulisic had any future at the club after his precautionary exit from the match against West Brom and previous lack of form, but it is apparent that when fully fit and on form, Pulisic very well may become one of the first players on the team sheet. Pulisic now needs to keep this form and consistency up the rest of the way. If he can manage this, Chelsea have an attacking force and could start to see themselves become more of the attacking juggernaut we all believed they could have been at the start of this season.
Kurt Zouma’s Aerial Ability is Vastly Underrated as the Frenchman dominates Crystal Palace
Kurt Zouma has had bit of an up-and-down season with the Blues, but the match today showed that the Frenchman has an undeniable and vastly underrated ability: his aerial presence in both boxes. Zouma now has five Premier League goals, which only trails Mason Mount and Jorginho in the Chelsea squad. He also has the most goals by a defender in the Premier League despite missing 11 matches. The goal return for Zouma is simply incredible, but it also highlights a larger trend for the Blues: there is generally a lack of goal threat from corners and set pieces without Zouma. This cannot be ignored any further.
Making the most of set piece opportunities is vital for any squad, and Chelsea have hopefully found their integral cog to the machine for attacking set pieces. Additionally, Zouma also has an incredible ability in defensive aerial dual situations against the oppositions long, looping balls over the top and set pieces. The role and fit for Zouma has been questioned several times within the fanbase, but hopefully after today these murmurs begin to subside to a deafened silence. Zouma is hands-down the best attacking threat and defensive rock for aerial duals. This could be key to winning later in cup matches, too. Chelsea have a history of winning late set pieces and scoring from headers in cup matches, specifically European cup matches: Didier Drogba late in Munich and Branislav Ivanovic late against Benfica.
Jorginho and Kovacic Display Resiliency
Despite the collective disaster from Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic against West Brom, both players responded well in this match. While each player has displayed distinct limitations at times, it was impressive to see each of the holding midfielders at their scintillating best form against Crystal Palace. This was particularly impressive because of the resiliency that each displayed after the failure against WBA and the less than inspiring midweek performance against Porto.
The pressure on each of Jorginho and Kovacic to deliver at a more consistent basis has grown with their increased roles in the squad plus the recent injury to N’Golo Kante. If both can continue to finish the rest of the season like they performed against Palace, Chelsea will likely finish this tumultuous campaign with favorable results. This remains to be seen, but the performance from these two were part of the standouts in the massive victory. Let’s hope they go on to continue this and, along with Kante, guide the Blues to a top four finish and trophy.
Tuchel’s Best Attacking Performance as Manager
This was easily the best attacking performance from the Blues since Tuchel took over. It was disappointing that the squad could not keep a clean sheet, however, the incredible attacking play more than made up for it. The Chelsea squad played with an intensity that so far has been unseen and blew the hinges off the Crystal Palace defence quickly in the first half. Tuchel will have to be pleased with this performance and must be considering who his best front three is after this match.
The form of Pulisic, Havertz, and Mount were lethal and expertly clipped the wings of the Eagles. The options for Tuchel are still plentiful with Timo Werner, Olivier Giroud, Hakim Ziyech, and Tammy Abraham also in contention for selection, but the keenly obvious chemistry between the starting front three at Palace will be hard for Tuchel to ignore going forward.
It will be key for Tuchel to be able to foster a competitive spirit in the squad the rest of the way, and a hunger for attacking play and goals will be crucial. The performance against Palace should be the template for Tuchel going forward and he will absolutely know that it is possible to achieve this level of success after months of a sputtering attacking output. Let’s hope this display gives Tuchel the hope that the issues are sorted!
Written by Travis Flock (@Crossroads_CFC)
Edited by Tom Coley (@tomcoley49)
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