Ben Chilwell celebrated a Chelsea league debut to remember, instrumental in the victory over Crystal Palace and giving Frank Lampard plenty to purr over.
Loch Ness monster, Bigfoot, Chelsea defenders being the Man of the Match. All edge on the side of impossible and imagination, however, one of these phenomena was proven reality over the weekend.
Ben Chilwell was superb in his Premier League debut for Chelsea, scoring and assisting in the 4-0 win over city rival Crystal Palace. The score line was generous on Frank Lampard’s side. Frustrated throughout the first half, the Blues were gifted an avenue back into the game thanks to a Palace defensive mistake—so often associated with Chelsea—that allowed Chilwell to smash home in front of a baron Stamford Bridge.
He swiftly added an assist 16 minutes later, delightfully picking out fellow defender Kurt Zouma with an inch-perfect cross. Chilwell shuttled down the left with confidence, arguably the Blues’ brightest attacking outlet, which is surprising considering the talent his teammates posses in forward areas.
On his 100th top flight appearance, the young fullback looked the most comfortable of the Blues’ newest recruits, five of the six on show on Saturday afternoon. Eduard Mendy and Thiago Silva were alongside him in the rear-guard, Kai Havertz and Timo Werner making up the attacking quartet. The latter German pairing had another challenging afternoon, neither able to stamp their authority fully upon the match as Palace mostly blocked the gaps the duo usually operate in. This congestion in the middle allowed Chilwell to roam pretty freely, making a front five at times as was the nature of his approach. Occasionally, he was guilty of leaving Zouma isolated as he ventured downfield. Thankfully, Palace never capitalised and the Frenchman was well equipped to deal with any danger.
Zouma was also in fine form, not exclusively because of his powerful header to make it 2-0, but for his commanding presence in the wake of Palace’s lively strikers. Wilfred Zaha and Jordan Ayew rarely got a sniff of the ball between the Blues’ center halves and Lampard will be hoping he has found a settled partnership. Silva and Zouma featured together for the first time at the heart of the defense, coinciding with a clean sheet and a generally dominant display. Cesar Azpilicueta was the final piece to the puzzle, the Chelsea captain adding balance to the back line, remaining conservative and controlled whilst Chilwell was energetic and exciting.
Palace also conceded two penalties late on, both dispatched by the hop-skip and jump of Jorginho, who had an underrated display in the midfield. Considering the goals came from a mistake, a cross and two spot kicks, Lampard should not be truly satisfied with the manner of the result. Defensively assured, he will need more ruthlessness from the likes of Werner, Havertz and Tammy Abraham if the Blues are to overcome far greater opposition. His back four will not get such an easy ride each week; therefore, work still needs to be done. Thankfully, the addition of Chilwell has added firepower from out wide, in addition to his excellent delivery from set pieces and open play.
The England international could easily become Chelsea’s chief creator in the absence of Hakim Ziyech, although the majestic Moroccan will hopefully return following the international break. Lampard and Gareth Southgate may also relish from the combination for club and country of Chilwell and Mason Mount, he could well form a strong relationship on the left side.
This is all good news unless your name is Marcos Alonso. This is the final straw in the Spaniard’s slow demise, who was has been left out completely of the past two matchday squads. Even Kepa Arrizabalaga hasn’t been subjected to this kind of scrutiny, despite his future looking equally as uncertain. Alonso’s antics against West Bromwich Albion had him hauled off at halftime, not to be seen at all at Tottenham Hotspur midweek, nor in the win over Palace. Chilwell has affirmed his position as Lampard’s first choice, and his career could not have started in a more sparkling form.