5 things that made us think after Chelsea 1-2 Crystal Palace
5) Palace can improve – in defence and attack
"This was the team's best performance that I've seen at Crystal Palace," said Pardew at the final whistle (before adding, wickedly, that Chelsea "played their part" and "were very resilient"). He's probably right. There's still room for improvement, though, and the match revealed two areas in particular that need work.
In the first half, although they made an impressive number of clearances and generally defended stoutly, the Palace defenders missed tackles in key areas. No doubt they feared giving away a penalty: they were, after all, playing away at a big club with a referee-baiting manager and a striker known for going down with relative ease (indeed, Diego Costa fell and appealed for a penalty in the first half but Craig Pawson wasn't interested).
However, a team cannot afford to repeatedly fail with attempted tackles in the penalty area. Even arch-destroyer Matic danced twinkle-toed through three defenders to get a shot on goal. That the visitors had only one penalty-box tackle to make in the second half reflects poorly on Chelsea.
Secondly, Connor Wickham must offer more of an outlet when his new team-mates are under the cosh. Palace often sought their lone striker with a long pass to relieve pressure, but he won none of his first 6 aerial battles with Chelsea defenders and only 3 of his 13 in the match. The two teams actually attempted virtually the same number of long passes in the game; the fact that Chelsea's were twice as effective speaks volumes about Wickham's performance, as well as the aerial strength of their own centre-backs.
Wickham's build-up play was disappointing, too, and while he's usually a willing runner, he occasionally switched off; in fact, Jason Puncheon angrily remonstrated with him late in the game as a clearance to a Chelsea defender went unchallenged. Taking him off wasn't really an option, either: substitute Dwight Gayle would have offered pace on the counter but not the physical presence of Wickham (such as it was).
It wasn't all bad – for example, he put in one excellent low cross seemingly out of nothing – but Wickham will need to improve if he's to remain Pardew's first choice upfront.