Three talking points from Chelsea’s win over Crystal Palace

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 17: Cesc Fabregas of Chelsea (L) attempts to take the ball past Zeki Fryers of Crystal Palace (R) during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Chelsea at Selhurst Park on December 17, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 17: Cesc Fabregas of Chelsea (L) attempts to take the ball past Zeki Fryers of Crystal Palace (R) during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Chelsea at Selhurst Park on December 17, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images) /
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Chelsea set the club record for a single-season win streak with their win at Crystal Palace. What should we take away from Selhurst Park as we look for the Blues to go one better on Boxing Day?

LONDON, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 17: Cesc Fabregas of Chelsea (L) attempts to take the ball past Zeki Fryers of Crystal Palace (R) during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Chelsea at Selhurst Park on December 17, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 17: Cesc Fabregas of Chelsea (L) attempts to take the ball past Zeki Fryers of Crystal Palace (R) during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Chelsea at Selhurst Park on December 17, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images) /

Chelsea’s third consecutive 1-0 win gave them a club record, but jeopardized extending that record at home to Bournemouth. The Blues will have to seek #12 without Diego Costa and N’Golo Kante. Both players received their fifth yellow card of the season, and will be suspended for the Boxing Day fixture.

The officiating was only one factor in this game that will hang over the Blues when they return to action. On a day when the normally docile Claudio Ranieri raged at the referee in his match, Jon Moss continued the recent tradition of not providing Chelsea players any substantial protection. Damien Delaney’s 82nd minute yellow card was a belated acknowledgement of Crystal Palace’s aggravated tackling.

Overall, Crystal Palace played as expected: strong in possession, but never fully threatening Chelsea or bothering Thibaut Courtois. Here are some important takeaways from the fixture.

Cesc Fabregas dictated the final 30 minutes

Cesc Fabregas came on for Willian in the 64th minute. Less than a minute later, in his first play on the ball, he blasted a pass to Marcos Alonso who was point blank in front of the Palace net. Perhaps Alonso intercepted Fabregas’ intended pass to Eden Hazard, who was completely open a few yards behind Alonso. Either way, he once again made an immediate impact.

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For the remainder of the game Chelsea played with vigor and incision that they did not have for the first hour. Fabregas, as is his wont when he is in form, distributed the ball through previously unseen passing lanes. Eden Hazard, Victor Moses and Diego Costa all received perfect service from Fabregas.

Willian was not having a strong game. He first touches were uncharacteristically clumsy, he was not making creative runs and slowed down Chelsea’s counter-attack. Fabregas overhauled Chelsea’s play, bringing a stronger presence and a different style of play.

Against Bournemouth, Antonio Conte has to fill two dichotomous gaps: Costa’s offense and Kante’s holding midfield. Fabregas can create numerous opportunities for Eden Hazard and (presumably) Michy Batshuayi. But Fabregas and Batshuayi do not have the years of link-up experience that the Spanish tandem do. Fabregas can launch a pinpoint pass, but it will come to nought if Batshuayi does not know where to be and what to do with it.

More importantly, Fabregas offers nothing to compensate for Kante’s absence. Conte will need to play Nathaniel Chalobah alongside Nemanja Matic, with the weight of the role falling on Matic. This means Chelsea would have to line up in a 3-5-2 if Fabregas is to play against Bournemouth.