As the 2019/2020 edition of the Premier League season is approaching its sunset, with just one more game to go, we decided to take a look at how this league season has panned out for the Blues so far.
In an unfortunate turn of events that transpired before the end of the 18/19 Premier League season, as we all know, Chelsea were on the receiving end of a transfer ban, lost their best player, and lost their head coach.
All of this led to the appointment of Frank Lampard as Chelsea head coach; stepping up from his position at Derby County in the Championship to oversee a project that would need the full utilisation of the academy, which Frank, along with his coaching staff were cut out to do. The fans were sceptical about whether we would qualify for next seasons’ edition of the Champions League with an inexperienced manager and a relatively inexperienced squad composed of a mix of leftovers from the previous managers, young players coming back with loan experience, current academy players and a few seniors. The only newcomers that Chelsea welcomed last summer were Christian Pulisic, for whom the deal had been agreed before the ban and Matteo Kovačić, whose loan move was made permanent by the club.
Apart from that, Lampard introduced academy graduates who had been performing well on loan and began to integrate them into the squad including the likes of Mason Mount, Fikayo Tomori, Reece James and Tammy Abraham coming into the first team. Kurt Zouma also came back from a successful loan spell at Everton. This was an opportunity of a lifetime for all of them to cement their place in the side and show their talent due to no incoming new faces. Our squad was further depleted when experienced centre-half David Luiz left to join Arsenal. The challenge before Frank seemed to be a tough one.
Poor start to the season:
The beginning of this new season saw Chelsea stutter into motion with a rocky start, losing our tough first fixture against Ole’s Manchester United with a thumping 4-0 defeat. The shaky showing continued with a 1-1 draw at home to Leicester City, with Mason Mount scoring his first senior goal for Chelsea on his home league debut. This was truly a moment to savour, but we were still without a win.
Our first win of the campaign came away to Norwich City by 3-2, courtesy of Tammy Abraham’s brace which was a great moment for the fans provided by an academy star in the ascendency. Then came another blow as Frank Lampard failed to register a win at Stamford Bridge again with a 2-2 draw against Sheffield after letting a two goal lead slip. Once again, after a tough result, Chelsea cruised to a 5-2 win away to Wolves with another glorious moment; this time a wondergoal from the young Fikayo Tomori to give Chelsea the lead, and Tammy Abraham’s first Chelsea hat-trick. But once again, Chelsea failed to capitalise on this at home against Liverpool, losing 2-1 after a spirited performance, with Frank Lampard gutted to still be without a home win.
After the rocky start, filled with highs and lows (mostly lows), we saw an improvement in Chelsea’s play with more stable line-ups and Frankie’s boys putting up shows of great attacking football; stimulating excitement among the fans for what was to come. Chelsea went on a six game league winning run with comprehensive victories against Brighton & Hove Albion, our first league win at Stamford Bridge under Lampard, and our first clean sheet, a 2-0 win and a complete performance, followed by a 4-1 away win at Southampton, and a 1-0 home win against Newcastle. However, what was noteworthy was the absence of playing time for Christian Pulisic, the American wonderkid, who everyone was expectant and eager to see with questions being raised by a section of the Chelsea fans as to Lampard’s frugal and hesitant use of him. However, when Lampard finally did start him against Burnley, Pulisic dazzled with a fantastic showing and completed a perfect hat-trick that lead Chelsea to a 4-2 win against Burnley at Turf Moor. The winning run then continued for two more games, with a 2-1 win against Watford away, and a 2-0 home win against Crystal Palace with Tammy Abraham and Christian Pulisic again showing their clear talent and winning games on their own. Tammy’s goal-scoring prowess became apparent and Chelsea fans rejoiced as the number 9 curse was finally, seemingly broken.
November – December inconsistencies – another rocky patch:
Towards the end of November, our form started dipping again with back to back losses against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium, although the performance was encouraging. We played shoulder-to-shoulder with Pep Guardiola’s side, but the other was a 1-0 loss against West Ham, which was a tough one to take. The ups and downs continued with Chelsea failing to pick up consistent wins, winning against Aston Villa and then losing two away games to Everton and Bournemouth.
Then came a tough Christmas round, with the all important game against Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham – a clash between pupil and master, the Boxing day game against Southampton, followed by games against Arsenal and Brighton on the new year. We triumphed with a solid display against Tottenham with Willian stealing the show (“He hates Tottenham”), but then fell to defeat against Southampton at home. With Chelsea’s rocky form, a clash at the Emirates closed the year and the decade. Arsenal took the lead early on, but Chelsea, with some key changes, changed the game and managed to turn it around, with four goals in two minutes and Abraham scoring an 87th minute winner to end the decade in fantastic fashion. One of the substitutes who made a huge impact on the game, to the delight and surprise of the fans, was another Cobham prodigy by the name of Tariq Lamptey, who the fans really took to from the minute that he stepped on the pitch.
New year, no new story – inconsistencies plague us again:
We began the new year with the winter transfer window and our ban being halved by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, resulting in us being able to conduct transfer business in January, a hopeful new year. However, the start to 2020 wasn’t exactly how we had planned, with our inconsistent form showing up again having just one win in January, and one in March with two draws and two defeats in both months. The new year began with a draw against Brighton, followed by a great performance at home against Burnley, winning 3-0. Then came another slump with a loss to Newcastle, a draw against a ten man Arsenal side in a game we deserved to win but one that ended with a real kick in the teeth by Arsenal equalizing late. We could only manage a point in spite of former Blue David Luiz being sent off early on in the game. The glum month became even more frustrating for the fans, as no signings seemed forthcoming in this window. February started badly again with a poor performance: a point rescued by Antonio Rudiger’s heroic brace against Leicester, followed by a controversial 2-0 defeat against Manchester United, where a potential red card and VAR cast a shadow over the result. To up the spirits in late February, Chelsea won the reverse fixture against Tottenham, completing Lampard’s double over his mentor, Mourinho. February ended with another draw against Bournemouth who has been our bogey team in recent years.
Continuing their good form displayed in the Cup game against Liverpool, in one of the most dominant displays of the season, Chelsea defeated Everton 4-0 featuring the young Scottish boy from the academy, Billy Gilmour, making a huge impact and earning himself a man of the match award in the absence of Jorginho. Sadly though, the excitement that this run of form brought us was short lived, as the league was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Post-break June-July – Quick fixtures, Rotation, Attacking 8s, and more inconsistencies.
We haven’t yet found the cure for the virus, but life keeps going as does the Premier League albeit with its new rules regarding safety of the players and the staff. This cam along with a fast paced schedule to cover up for lost time having a game to be played every three days, the five substitute rule, and social distancing norms, but most importantly, without the life and soul of football – the fans.
With almost all of our injured players back fit, Chelsea fans were excited to see the Blues back in action, but also wanted the team to go all in and finish in the top four contending with Leicester, Manchester United and Wolves, all tough competitors fiercely vying for those third and fourth spots. Lampard started using a more familiar line-up now that all the players were back from injury. He used N’Golo Kanté in a defensive midfield role (something that we hadn’t seen for the past few seasons) for defensive cover and played two attacking midfielders alongside him – Mount, Barkley, Kovacic, Gilmour and Loftus-Cheek.
We started well beating Villa 2-1, the introduction of Pulisic firing us on to come back from a goal down. The next fixture was an extra tough game against Manchester City – where we played brilliantly and won 2-1 – Captain America again stealing the show. West Ham was a game that Chelsea were then expected to win to keep them in the top 3, but unfortunately, we slipped up again and our inexperience, inconsistency, and individual mistakes cost us more unnecessary points. Somehow, we still managed to stay in third place due to our rivals dropping points at key moments. Then came the 3-0 and 3-2 wins against Watford and Crystal Palace to give us more hope for a top three finish; but those hopes were put into a huge limbo after we were thrashed by Sheffield United. Once again we survived. Our rivals could not capitalise. Another hard fought 1-0 win against Norwich saw us keep our place. Now, with two games to go, all we had to do was get a point against Liverpool and we could have secured the top four finish. Sadly, that was not to be. In a season fraught with happiness and frustration, the Liverpool game was perhaps a highlight reel of our season: conceding long range goals, set pieces, individual as well as collective errors and faulty goalkeeping mixed with a few great moments from Pulisic, Abraham and Hudson-Odoi led to a disappointing 5-3 loss in the end.
The Final Push – Wolves
All of this has culminated in the scenario that before the last game we are now fourth in the league table, with one game to go against Wolverhampton and needing one point needed to secure qualification. We may still qualify if United beat Leicester and we don’t get that point. I’m sure this game will provide a cracking and entertaining end to a roller coaster ride of a season that has seen us go over so many rocky patches, so many highs and lows with so many great moments. This truly was a transition season and Frank Lampard has done unexpectedly well in the Premier League to be so close to Champions League qualification, which was not expected from an inexperienced manager and an inexperienced team. Rest assured, if we do finish in the top four, I think this season should be considered to be a success, taking into context the circumstances surrounding us and a step in the right direction for the project that Frank has started.
With a youthful academy core, Chelsea can now look into enhancing their quality, which we have already begun to do with Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner being secured, and getting rid of the surplus. Hopefully, the combination of these moves will result in a much better team next season and will help to minimize the frustrating bumps that fans saw this season.
Let us know your thoughts on the season and whether you think we will make top four!
Edited by Drew Adkins