A rollercoaster ride!
Won – 34 Drawn – 13 Lost – 12
Won – 29 Drawn – 8 Lost – 18
Scored – 99 Conceded – 43 Clean Sheets – 32
Scored – 102 Conceded – 79 Clean Sheets – 13
When I wrote the review last season I said it was a season of progress for Chelsea. This season I would say we progressed by taking the biggest leap a European Football Club can take but we for sure took the scenic route. The season began on September 15th 2020 for Chelsea with Frank Lampard as our manager and an exciting expectation about the season. Chelsea’s season ended on May 29th 2021 winning the Champions League with Thomas Tuchel as our manager and an exciting expectation for next season. Over the course of this article we will look at each competition and see how the season went from high high’s to low lows and how Chelsea ended up winning the biggest prize in European football for the 2nd time.
Let’s look back to September of last year. The Euros had been cancelled but Chelsea bought really well during the summer and had one of the best windows ever. Hakim Ziyech, Timo Werner, Ben Chilwell, Thiago Silva, Edouard Mendy, and Kai Havertz all joined Chelsea for Lampard’s 2nd season in charge and it was going to be glorious. Chelsea’s Premier League campaign can be divided into 3 parts. The first period started in September with MW 1 and ended at the beginning of December with MW 11. In that period Chelsea played 11 games winning 6, drawing 4 and losing 1 in the process. We scored 23 goals and conceded 11 playing a 4-3-3 formation under Lampard. It was a solid period at the end of MW 11 we were 3rd 2 points off of league leaders Tottenham. Our highlight would have been that MW 11 game against Leeds at Stamford Bridge which also welcomed around 2000 fans to the stadium. We ran our socks off against Leeds out running Bielsa’s team and played really well all over the park. All 5 signings started that game and it was another check on Lampard’s list. It looked like there was clear improvement and as Chelsea fans everyone was very confident.
Then come’s the period from MW 12 to MW 19 where it felt like someone flipped a switch with the team. Chelsea played 8 games, winning 2, drawing 1, and losing 5; scoring 8, and conceding 12. Losses to Leicester, Man City, Arsenal, Everton and Wolves saw us drop down to 9th in the table 7 points from 4th. Then came the news that Lampard had been sacked by Chelsea. It was a complete shock to everyone. I still remember I was out having lunch and I just lost my appetite. There was confusion, anger, from fans as to why. We had been promised a project and sure the results had not been great over the last month but we were in it for the long run with Lamps. At the very least he deserved till the end of the season. A personal message from Abramovich stated that it was one of the hardest decisions he had to make. There was news about some key players isolated like Rudiger, and Azpilicueta while the declining form in front of goal of Werner etc was not ideal. So the next question was who’s next. There was really only one top manager available who had just been sacked by PSG and that man was Thomas Tuchel.
Now before we talk about Tuchel’s first 4-5 months in charge of Chelsea I would like to say that he was at the bottom of my list when it came to Lampard replacements. The anger, and not really knowing Tuchel apart from the results with PSG and Dortmund from a distance meant that I didn’t really take him as serious manager and more of a nearly there. I am so happy to say that I was slapped in the face and put in my place by the German. From the first press conference when he was unveiled as the manager I felt like this was another manager I would fall in love with. Tuchel said that he would make Chelsea solid and hard to play against and a team that others feared and I can happily say he delivered and we aren’t even anywhere near the finished product. Tuchel’s first game came in MW 20 and over the next 19 games Chelsea won 11 games, drew 5, and lost 3. We secured 4th on the final day with 67 points and Champions League football with it. That would have been Tuchel’s main objective and he was able to get it done. In that period we beat Tottenham, Everton, Liverpool, Man City and Leicester scoring 8 and conceding 2. Overall we scored 25 and conceded 13.
Now last season I compared Lampard’s first season to the ones that the likes of Klopp, Pep etc had. That was one full season though and comparing Tuchel’s 5 month period would be unfair. What we can do is compare what exactly was different between Chelsea under Lampard and Chelsea under Tuchel. Now during that first period and for most of the time under Lampard Chelsea had a more dynamic gung ho approach. You could win big but you could easily lose heavily. During the first 19 games we scored 3 or more goals 8 times. We also conceded 3 or more goals 4 times. Under Tuchel the goals did dry up as we scored 3 or more goals once in 19 games but we also conceded 3 or more goals once in 19 games which came against West Brom. What I feel hurt Lampard and led to him getting sacked was our dry spell and the fact that we didn’t switch it up at the back. Tuchel recognised that there was a dry spell and it continued on but we became one of the best defences in Europe and so even scoring 1 or 2 goals were enough. It was just evident that Chelsea were missing that touch up front. The club led the Premier League in terms of chances created since January. Defensively we were a massive improvement though really only behind City and we probably would have been better if Tuchel had been around for a season.
The main difference between Lampard and Tuchel was that when the going got tough Lampard’s inexperience showed. The isolation of key players and the lack of tactical knowledge needed to solve a tricky situation meant that we were hoping for a turn around in form rather than working on it. Now with more experience and growth I believe Lampard will reach new heights as a manager because getting top four last season was no small task and we did play really well up till December. Tuchel on the other hand showed his experience. Bringing back influential figures like Rudiger, Azpi, Alonso and making everyone feel like they had a place in the team. Tuchel gave everyone a chance in those opening few games. Finally the change in formation played to Chelsea’s strengths and our defensive solidity meant that we became a great team. The energy that the players displayed for many games during the 2nd half of the season and the willingness to press was very Germanesque. Of course we did pressing under Lampard as well but the positive results always help the team believe that they are gaining rewards for their hard work on the pitch.
At the beginning of the season I predicted that Chelsea would finish 3rd and within single digits of the top 2. That did not pan out as we finished 19 points behind City and 7 points behind Manchester United. We also only managed a point more than we did last season. There is a big asterisk though and the change of managers meant that early season predictions at least those on the league were thrown out the door. Regardless of the finish Chelsea will be expected to challenge for the title next season and who knows if we can solve our patchy form during the holidays we can win the lot.
Champions League Winners
The crowning achievement of the season and one that made the rollercoaster ride worthwhile. At the beginning of the season I said that anything past the Quarter-Finals would be a bonus but what followed was fully deserved. It was a campaign of sustained success from the group stage to the final and for that both Lampard and Tuchel deserve credit. The group stage began with a 0-0 draw at home to Sevilla. What came next were wins against Krasnodar, twice against Stade Rennais, and a big win against Sevilla where Giroud scored all 4 goals in a 0-4 win. The final Champions League game under Lampard was a 1-1 draw against Krasnodar. A solid group stage which saw us improve under Lamps from last season. We scored 14 goals over 6 games and conceded 2 which was very very good.
Lampard’s sacking in January meant that for the knockout stages we would have Tuchel in charge who himself was sacked at PSG after guiding them to the knockout stages. What followed under Tuchel will go down in history. We beat Atletico Madrid 3-0 over two legs in the Round of 16, out playing and out fighting Diego Simeone and his players. Next up was Porto in the Quarter-Finals who beat 2-1 on aggregate as we won the 1st leg but lost the 2nd leg to a wonder goal. Porto tried to play dirty but we fought it out. Real Madrid were next in the Semi-Finals and we beat them 3-1 on aggregate. A 1-1 draw in the 1st leg and a big 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge.
We all know what happened on Saturday as Chelsea beat Manchester City in Porto 0-1 to become Champions of Europe for a 2nd time. It was a deserved win as Chelsea were once again the better team against Manchester City. 9 wins, 3 draws, and 1 loss. 23 goals scored, 4 conceded!. To put that into context we conceded 16 goals last season as we were knocked out by Bayern in the Round of 16. 4 goals conceded also happens to be a new record for a CL winning team. We also kept 9 clean sheets in 13 games. For many in this team the Champions League is their first trophy at Chelsea and for many it’s their first senior trophy ever. It should be a major catalyst for what really is a new era at the club.
The main thing to take away from this CL win is the fact that unlike 2012 this time we deserved to win it. 2012 was a campaign against the odds, Chelsea were 2nd best in several games but we fought hard and at times rode our luck but we got the job done. It was special. This time we outplayed each team we should have scored way more goals and we deserved it over the course of the campaign. A 2nd Champions League really makes Chelsea a global force and puts any doubts of the colour of London to bed. London is Blue and for now Europe is Blue.
FA Cup Final
We had another solid FA Cup campaign as we reached the final for a 2nd consecutive season. Wins against Morecambe, Luton, Barnsley, Sheffield United, and Manchester City saw us reach the final. We scored 11 goals and conceded 2 as we lost the final to Leicester at Wembley. We also kept 4 clean sheets over 6 games. Falling at the final hurdle for a 2nd time was tough but another learning experience and one that probably encouraged the players to get the job done in Porto.
Carabao Cup 4th Round
Once again we were knocked out of the Carabao Cup in the 4th round. We beat Barnsley 6-0 in the 3rd round but lost to Tottenham on penalties.
It wasn’t a predictable season. So many ups and downs throughout. At the beginning of December Lampard was challenging for title with the club and in January he was sacked. Tuchel came in and Chelsea became a power house and won the Champions League. We conceded 4 goals in the entire CL campaign but conceded 8 to West Brom over two games. Supporting Chelsea is never boring but man it can be exhausting. Elation, to anger, to elation again are just some of the emotions I felt this season. So what’s next? Well it’s a summer break but not for the players as they have Euro 2020 to deal with. A couple of weeks break after that and Chelsea will be back in pre season. This squad doesn’t need another 7 players but 3-4 key players. Our forward players seemed to have lost their finishing en masse after December and we need to sign a forward hopefully Lukaku to be that consistent source up front. A defensive midfielder like Rice would be an amazing get as well. The rest Chelsea can sort out for themselves. This Chelsea team under Tuchel is ready to challenge next season and it’s going to be a big one. I expect the team and squad to challenge on all front’s and it has me very excited. For now though the Euros and an entertaining transfer window! COME ON CHELSEA!!!