After winning the Europa League trophy and securing third place last season, many believed this campaign was looking like a transitional period for Chelsea. Star player Eden Hazard was sold to Real Madrid and a transfer ban meant no new arrivals.
Chelsea hero Frank Lampard joined the team as a manager with low expectations. 2019/20 was going to be about the youth. Players such as Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount, Reece James, and Christian Pulisic were considered young, unproven prospects.
Due to multiple circumstances, the general consensus is that Lampard overachieved this season. Lampard secured a place in the top four in his first season in the Premier League. On top of that, he gave big roles to young players that are the future of the club, in addition to reaching an FA Cup final. However, it’s also fair to say that some of the traditional big six clubs underachieved this season which put less pressure on Lampard and his men.
Chelsea Season Review
What Went Wrong for Chelsea This Season?
Chelsea finished the season level on 66 points with Manchester United. This tally is a low one for a top-four side. With the exception of this campaign, since the 2010/11 season, only Manchester City in the 2015/16 season finished in the top four with a tally that low.
But Chelsea’s biggest issue without question was the defence. Conceding 54 goals, the Blues had the worst defence in the top ten. Underperforming centre-backs, a left-back position in limbo and no protection between the sticks contributed to a backline that conceded a massive amount of goals.
Antonio Rudiger, on his day, is Chelsea’s best centre-back, but even he was at fault this season. Kurt Zouma and Andreas Christensen had been hit or miss with both prone to mistakes. Finally, promising youngster Fikayo Tomori isn’t quite at the level to be a starting defender for Chelsea, yet.
Kepa Arrizabalaga was arguably Chelsea’s worst player this season, making countless mistakes and offering the defenders very little confidence. According to Fbref, Kepa’s post-shot expected goals minus goals allowed is at a -9.9 from this past season. In layman’s terms, Kepa conceded close to ten more goals than he otherwise would’ve been expected to save based on advanced metrics.
It’s easy to put the blame on only the back-line for Chelsea woes this season. However, N’golo Kante missed 16 league games this season. Furthermore, when a part of the team, the Frenchman seemed to struggle with his fitness. Jorginho was also less than impressive at protecting the back-line. The Brazilian born Italian international is an excellent passer of the ball. On the other hand, he isn’t a player that can do many jobs for you in midfield. In Maurizio Sarri’s system at both Napoli and Chelsea, Jorginho was put in a position to do what he does best. Under Lampard, Jorginho has been exposed as more one dimensional than many thought.
Chelsea’s Mr Consistent
Chelsea had plenty of great performers of note that eventually led them to Champions League qualification. First and foremost, credit has to be given to Cesar Azpilicueta. Azpilicueta is the epitome of consistency, hardly ever putting a foot wrong. Whenever Lampard has needed to plug in a gap, Azpilicueta has been there to do the job. The Spaniard has played all across the back-line this season. According to whoscored, he has averaged the most tackles and the joint-most interceptions for the team (tied with Kurt Zouma). While Reece James looks to be the permanent first-choice right-back and a new left-back possibly joining the club, Azpilicueta won’t see himself as a starter. However, the Chelsea captain will surely continue to play an important role for the team.
Success in the Forward Line
Tammy Abraham and Olivier Giroud, during different stretches of the season, were pivotal for Chelsea. Abraham finished the season with 15 Premier League goals, which is the most from any Chelsea player. Post restart, Olivier Giroud filled in for an out-of-form Abraham, scoring six goals in the last nine games. The acquisition of Timo Werner means Chelsea will have an extremely deep forward line.
Other members of a firing attack include Willian, Mason Mount, and Christian Pulisic. Willian, who is often criticised, was able to play a big role in Chelsea’s season. The Brazilian contributed to 16 goals, averaging 2.1 key passes and 1.8 dribbles per game. If this is Willian’s final season at Stamford Bridge, then he leaves in style.
Mount played all but one league game for the Blues this season. While not excelling at anything in particular, the young Englishman is an all-around modern attacking midfielder. Mount likes to shoot, he can play on the wing, and can cover ground quite well. While nowhere near the finished article, the 21-year-old can build off of a strong season in the upcoming campaign.
Pulisic is Chelsea’s most technically gifted player. If it wasn’t for some injury issues in the first half of the season, the American would be a real contender for Chelsea’s Player of the Season. Pulisic seems to glide on the pitch, constantly giving defenders a headache. Criticised for his low goal tallies in years past, Pulisic scored nine goals in 19 starts. This tally is the most he’s scored in a league season.
Chelsea’s Player of the Season
Taking into account consistency, impact, and importance to the team, Chelsea’s Player of the Season is Mateo Kovacic. Kovacic is the fulcrum of the midfield, excelling in many ways. Kovacic is the top dribbler in the team averaging 2.5 dribbles a game. The Croatian is an excellent passer, making shrewd passes linking the defence to the midfield. Finally, he’s been able to mop up and cover for other midfielders’ shortcomings with his fantastic positioning and defensive aptness. If Chelsea can fill in the holes and have more consistent midfield performances then Kovacic will only look even better.
Chelsea Biggest Highlights
Chelsea fans will be happy with a league double over rivals Tottenham Hotspur. However, the performance of the season was the 2-1 victory against Manchester City in late June. 2-1 was the scoreline, but Chelsea clearly played City off the pitch on the day. According to understat, expected goals had the game at 4.29 to 0.69 in Chelsea’s favour. Lampard went toe to toe with Pep Guardiola and did not disappoint.
Chelsea’s attack has been fun to watch. While Lampard has a lot of work to do, the already blistering attack will improve next season with the acquisition of Timo Werner. The young talent will keep the blues faithful optimistic for the 2020/21 campaign.