The European champions have traded some of their considerable ranks of squad players, academy starlets and regular loanees this summer to earn themselves a useful margin of profit, although in the end it was one whom they have retained from the age of eight years old who stole the show.
Trevoh Chalobah, 22, whose older brother Nathaniel was once another Chelsea academy star, has waited a long time for his debut, through three loan spells at Ipswich Town, Huddersfield Town and most recently Lorient in Ligue 1.
He has earned more than 50 caps for England junior teams over the years, including the Under-21s, but until this sunny afternoon in west London he had never featured for the senior team of the club of his life.
Playing on the right side of three centre-backs, he marked the occasion with an unexpected goal – unexpected in that there are few centre-halves who would have hit that low right-foot drive with the confidence that Chalobah drilled the ball past Vicente Guaita in the 59th minute. The young defender seemed quite overwhelmed by the moment, setting off in celebration and then dropping to his knees.
That third goal marked the perfect start to the season for Chelsea who looked formidable even without an array of big names, either not yet fit or biding their time on the bench, including the new £98m returnee Romelu Lukaku. If he is back in time for Sunday’s visit to Arsenal one wonders how long before we again see the reliably erratic finishing of Timo Werner. Once again Stamford Bridge willed the German striker to score and, once again, he almost did.
Without many options at his disposal, the new Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira adopted the default position of many of his predecessors when faced with the quality of one of the Premier League’s big guns. That is to say Palace’s midfield sat deep whenever possible, showed Chelsea the outside and backed their defence – including the former Chelsea defender Marc Guehi – to deal what was thrown at them.
It worked for a while but playing that deep you have to get it all right. So when Jeff Schlupp fouled Mason Mount dangerously close to the Palace box in the right channel after 20 minutes, there was immediately a problem. Alonso, picked ahead of Ben Chilwell, dispatched the free-kick without a twitch from Guaita in the direction of the ball.
Later the goalkeeper would make a mess of Mount’s cross and the ball was at the feet of Christian Pulisic for a straightforward finish in front of goal.
A penny for Wilfried Zaha’s thoughts over the course of the game would have earned you a pound minimum by the end, so eager was he to share his views on everything with team-mates, and occasionally with Vieira himself. A rough start for the new Palace manager who gave a debut to new signings Guehi, and then later, as a substitute, Joachim Anderson.
There was another Palace debut for substitute Jesurun Rak-Sakyi, who is yet another former Chelsea academy boy, who seem very much in demand.