N'Golo Kante proved the difference maker for Chelsea as they defeated Crystal Palace 1-0 at Selhurst Park on Sunday lunchtime.
Speaking after the game, Maurizio Sarri was full of praise for the midfielder as he scored the only goal of the game.
The Frenchman latched onto the end of a pass over the top from David Luiz before firing underneath 'keeper Vicente Guaita as the Blues beat an uninspiring Palace side.
Kante's movement improving
Sarri's arrival at Chelsea this season has marked a key moment in the career of Kante. Normally known for his brilliant coverage of the back four in a holding midfield role, he's now been given new license in forward areas. Jorginho has been the man entrusted in a deeper role in Sarri's system and against Palace it worked effectively with Kante ahead of him.
On Kante's performance, Sarri said: "I think he first has to think defence then he is improving. Especially in movements without the ball like today. The movement was very good and done with the right timing."
Chelsea created chances through Willian and Ross Barkley but struggled to find space in the middle of the pitch. Kante, however, aided his side in that respect. "When we have to play against opponents very low in density it is difficult to find spaces," Sarri commented.
"I think now we have to work on Ross Barkley - especially Loftus [Cheek] - he is a very great player with the ball but I think he can improve a lot with the movement without the ball."
It was a timid start to the game but Chelsea hit the post twice in the first half, as Willian and Barkley both came close. The goal arrived in the second period, and it was that phase of the game and Chelsea's ability to see out the match that satisfied Sarri most. "We were better in the second half. We moved the ball better," he asserted.
"It's difficult for us to defend for the last five minutes in the box. We had good control for 85 minutes without conceding to the opponents," Sarri added.
Olivier Giroud was a willing contributor in the game but can consider himself unlucky not to have come away from the game with a brace. In either half he had the ball in the back of the net but on each occasion, he was deemed offside by the referee's assistant.
The French striker was then substituted with an ankle injury as he hobbled down the tunnel at full time. Sarri revealed: "The problem is his ankle. I do not know the length at the moment. We have to wait for tomorrow. I think that later in the evening I will see the doctor."
Cesc Fabregas has been linked with a move away from the club ahead of the January transfer window and didn't make the squad today. Sarri noted that was down to a neck injury picked up in training on Saturday. "In the last two days I think we were a bit unlucky. Yesterday in ten minutes we had three injuries - Fabregas, Loftus [Cheek] and Drinkwater. Today Giroud. Today we were without Pedro and [Hudson] Odoi,"
Sarri, however, couldn't reveal the length of Fabregas' injury. "I do not know how long he will be out for. The injury was in the last five minutes of training."
With games continuing to come thick and fast during this Christmas and New Year period Chelsea will be hoping to get players back as soon as possible. The Blues face Southampton on Wednesday before taking on Nottingham Forest in the third round of the FA Cup.