The 17/18 season drew to a close on Saturday with an FA Cup final win against Manchester United. At the start of the season Conte stated that it would be a tough one and that they would need to avoid another season like the 15/16 one. In all accounts and purposes we did, we finished 5th instead of 10th, and we managed to win a trophy along the way. Chelsea are the most successful team in english football since Abramovich took over and that is one fact that people cannot take away. The season itself has been one of two halves in my opinion, especially in regards to the league. The cup campaigns highlight the problems that Chelsea have faced this season and why we have not finished in the top four.
With a loss to Arsenal in the Community Shield our season started with a shock loss to Burnley at home, the game also happened to be the first of 38+ times Conte would be asked about his future at Chelsea. In keeping with the seasons trend Chelsea got three points at Wembley against Spurs in brilliant fashion to quell any initial doubts. The next four league games saw us win three and draw one against Arsenal. A loss to City at home foreshadowed City’s will for the title this season. The next fixture came against Crystal Palace who were bottom of the league and had not scored a goal or won a point all season. What seemed to be three points became zero as Crystal Palace ended their poor run. A run of seven games in which Chelsea won six and drew one against Liverpool followed. The run came to an end on the 9th of December with another shock loss to West Ham away. A strong end to the year followed winning four and drawing one of the of the five games. At the end of 2017 Chelsea sat 2nd in the league and while the title race seemed finished a top four finish was never in doubt.
2018 saw a turn in Chelsea’s fortune and injuries and implosions became a feature of the next six months. A 2-2 draw at Arsenal a game Chelsea should have easily won if not for Morata’s poor finishing foreshadowed what was to come for Chelsea. A draw and a win in the next two games was followed by a dismal loss at home to Bournemouth. Three goals were scored in quick succession as Chelsea seemed to implode at the back for the first time. The loss was followed by another shock defeat away to Watford where Chelsea shipped in three goals late on after imploding at the back once again. A win against West Brom at home was followed by successive losses in Manchester. A win against Palace was followed by a loss to Spurs at Stamford Bridge, a first in 28 years. The win would also become the highlight of Spurs season. The loss meant that Chelsea were 5th and faced an insurmountable task to finish in the top four. A late surge of four successive wins including one against Liverpool meant that Chelsea were just two points behind Spurs but a draw against Huddersfield and a final day loss to Newcastle assured Chelsea their 5th place finish.
Failing to finish in top four is a sackable offence at Chelsea and while a few years ago the top four spots were nailed on to be filled by Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal, and Manchester United (in any given order), now Manchester City and Tottenham are very much in the mix. Two out of six teams will always finish outside the top four and this year we were one of them. Chelsea’s imploded in January and February and that implosion all though it should not will probably be the biggest factor if Conte is sacked.
After a season of European hiatus Chelsea were back in the thick of things come September. The opener came against Qarabag as Chelsea demolished the Azerbaijani side 6-0 at Stamford Bridge. The highlight of Chelsea’s European campaign and perhaps one of the highlights of the season came away to Atletico as a tactical masterclass and a resounding display mean that Chelsea beat Atletico 2-1. The wins were followed by a 3-3 draw at home to Roma, and a 3-0 loss away to Roma. The loss did not sour Chelsea’s taste as a win against Qarabag and a draw at home to Atletico meant that Chelsea finished second in the group. Our round of 16 first leg against Barcelona came in the thick of poor league form and many thought it would be another dismal performance by Chelsea. That was not to be as Conte and Chelsea put on another tactical masterclass which only failed due to the post and a mistake by Christensen. A 3-0 loss followed in the second leg but the scoreline flattered Barcelona as mistakes and poor finishing by Chelsea coupled with Messi’s need for revenge were the true undoing of Chelsea. Roma ended Barcelona’s hopes in the second round as Messi went missing. No Champions League for next season but at least Chelsea will still be in Europe.
Capital One Cup
Chelsea reached the semi final of this season’s Capital One Cup after wins against Nottingham Forest, Everton, and Bournemouth. Arsenal were the competition and as the semi final came in the midst of Chelsea’s early 2018 collapse we drew at home and lost away to send Arsenal to their eventual loss against City in the final.
This season’s FA Cup should be named Chelsea Cup as Chelsea dominated all version’s of the competition. A final seemed in doubt as a draw away to Norwich in the 3rd round meant that there would be a replay. The replay at home was won on penalties as Caballero was the hero. Wins against Newcastle, Hull, Leicester, and Southampton meant that Chelsea would play Manchester United in the final. Chelsea went into the final as underdogs but ended the season with a trophy as Chelsea and Conte our Mourinhoed Manchester United in the final.
- Alvaro Morata – 15 goals and 6 assists this season is a decent return for Morata in his first season at Chelsea. He could have easily reached the 20 goal mark if he had finished some of the numerous chances he had. We have a brilliant striker on our hands who needs to work on his finishing, and physicality, a more expansive form of football could see Morata get several more goals next season. Juventus apparently are after him but Chelsea should stick with the spaniard.
- Tiemoué Bakayoko – Injured during the summer Bakayoko was thrown into his first game which came against Spurs at Wembley. Bakayoko was brilliant on the day and had a couple of good months. Though as Chelsea’s form began to dip towards the start of the new year Bakayoko seemed to be at the centre of it as poor performances and loss of confidence intersected against Watford. A few weeks on the sidelines and gradual integration back into the squad have seen Bakayoko put in encouraging performances once again, and his displays against Liverpool, and United in recent weeks have done enough to encourage most Chelsea fans for next season.
- Danny Drinkwater – Drinkwater came in a panic buy on the last day of the summer transfer window, and injuries delayed his debut. After some encouraging performances in games that he featured in he has failed to feature for several months. A transfer away from Chelsea in the summer seems on the cards as West Ham are interested.
- Antonio Rudiger – Rudiger has perhaps been the signing of the season as he has shined with brilliant performances throughout the season. A couple of poor performances coincided with Chelsea’s poor form but in general Rudiger seems to be on the path to success. Man of the match in the FA Cup final and a fan favourite things can only get better for the german.
- Davide Zappacosta – Zappacosta was brought in as back up for Moses in the summer transfer window. When called upon he has put in decent performances in the position though his appearances have decreased since the turn of the year. A decent season for him but will probably remain a backup option for Chelsea.
- Andreas Christensen – Not a summer buy but a loan player who was brought back into the first team. Conte gradually integrated Christensen into the squad and he has been one of the shining lights throughout this season. Having pushed Cahill to the bench his form did take a downturn in 2018 mainly due to fitness issues and exhaustion. Cahill was brought back into the squad in recent weeks and has performed admirably, but Christensen has definitely cemented his place in Chelsea’s squad.
- Olivier Giroud – Giroud was brought in as a striking option from Arsenal and has become a fan favourite in only six months. Conte preferred Giroud to Morata in recent weeks mainly due to his physicality and he has become a decent option to start games with not just to come off the bench.
- Emerson – Emerson was bought injured and only featured in recent weeks when Alonso had received his ban. The performances though have been more than decent and his displays have left Chelsea fans purring for more games next season.
- Ross Barkley – Barkley has been hampered by injuries once again and has only recently gained some form of fitness. Judgement should be reserved for next season as he has a summer to gain full fitness and a pre season to impress in.
- Callum Hudson Odoi – A youth player who has been brilliant this season and one which Chelsea fans should be really excited about.
That is the story of our season, if it were not for a poor first few months in 2018 Chelsea could have finished in better positions in the other competitions as well. Was it Conte’s last season as Chelsea manager?. Its looking likely at the moment. Though Chelsea showed that the winning mentality still exists within the team and that on our day we can beat the best.
It is a vital summer ahead for Chelsea, several positions and situations need to be solved and strong transfer window needs to be had if Chelsea are to challenge for the league next season.
15 trophies in the last 15 seasons is not bad and in the last few years ‘poor’ seasons are followed by great ones at Chelsea.
COME ON YOU BLUES!!!