A successful season.
Chelsea’s 18/19 season came to an end on Wednesday with a 4-1 win against Arsenal in the Europa League final. It brought to an end a season which has seen highs and lows and divided fan’s more than ever on what they expect from the team and who they want to see in charge. In this review we will look at each tournament individually and see what the positives and negatives were and why the opinion has been so scattered after what should be a universally positive season.
More of an official friendly our season started off with us playing in the Community Shield after we won the 17/18 FA Cup and we faced Man City who won the league in 17/18. The game ended 2-0 with City winning thanks to two goals from Aguero as it only came after two weeks of pre season. It still highlighted some key aspects of Sarri’s philosophy with Chelsea making 523 passes similar to City’s 583 and with an 87 percent pass accuracy similar to City’s 89%.
Chelsea started the Premier League season with a 0-3 away win at Huddersfield. We then went on an 11 game unbeaten run in which we drew 4 of our games. Our first loss was at Wembley to Spurs in November. Over December and January we won 6 games which included a 2-0 win against City, we lost 4 games which included 2-0 and 4-0 losses to Arsenal and Bournemouth respectively in January, and we drew 1 game. February began with a 5-0 win against Huddersfield which was followed by a 6-0 loss at City, the City loss was followed by a 2-0 win against Spurs. Starting March we won 5 games for the rest of the season, drew 4, and lost 2. Looking back the winter period was particularly damaging for the fanbase when it came to Sarri while the draws did not help over the season. We still managed to finish 3rd and for that Sarri should be lauded, but to see how good the season actually was we will compare it to overall stats this season, last season and then to Pep, and Klopp’s first full seasons.
Overall Stats –
- Wins – Chelsea were 4th most in wins with 21.
- Losses – Chelsea had the 3rd least losses with 8, City had 4, and Liverpool had 1. This shows that it was the draw’s that cost us the most with 9 of them.
- Touches – Chelsea had the 2nd most touches in the league with 32,358, ahead of Liverpool and behind City who had 33,593.
- Passes – Those touches were converted into passes in which we were also 2nd with 25,070 behind City who had 26,581.
- Goals – Chelsea finished 6th when it came to goals as we only scored 63 of them. Compared to us City scored 95.
- Shots – Chelsea had the 2nd most shots with 607, City had the most with 683.
- Hit the post – We finished 1st when it came to hitting the post as we managed to do it 21 times.
- Big Chances Missed – Chelsea were 2nd when it came to missing chances with 61 chances missed. City were 1st with 71.
- Big Chances Created – Chelsea created 81 chances.
- Clean Sheets – Chelsea finished 3rd when it came to clean sheets with Kepa having 16. Liverpool had the highest with 21.
The overall stats for this season paint an interesting picture. A team wins games when they score goals, you cannot win games when you don’t score goals. Chelsea were top 2 in touches, passes, shots, hitting the post, and chances missed, but finished 6th when it came to scoring goals. This highlights the problem we have had for the last two seasons and that is we do not have finishers. We were only behind City in most of these stats. City have Aguero, Sterling, and Sane who scored 21, 17, and 10 goals respectively. Compared to that Hazard had 16 goals and the next best was Pedro with 8.
Chelsea 17/18 –
- Wins – Chelsea were 4th with 21 wins.
- Losses – Chelsea had the 5th most losses with 10.
- Touches – Chelsea had the 5th most touches with 28,728.
- Passes – Chelsea had the 5th most passes with 21,264.
- Goals – Chelsea finished 6th in goals with 62.
- Shots – Chelsea had the 4th most shots with 606.
- Hit the post – Chelsea were 9th when it came to hitting the post with 11.
- Big Chances Missed – Chelsea were 6th when it came to chances missed with 48.
- Big Chances Created – Chelsea created 60 chances.
- Clean Sheets – Chelsea were 4th with 16 clean sheets.
Compared to Chelsea’s stats last season we can see that it was a similar picture. With the switch to possession based football Chelsea improved the passes, and touches stats this season. We scored one more goal than last season while we had one more shot than last season as well. The key stats are hitting the post which we hit 10 more times this season, we missed more big chances this season as well but that is a result of having created more chances than last season 21 more to be exact. Last season Eden Hazard was 10th in the scoring charts with 12 goals while Morata also ended the season with 10 goals, Chelsea’s next biggest contributor was Alonso with 7 goals. Conte stated time and time again that we were not clinical enough last season and that carried onto this season as we did not improve in the forward areas.
Pep and Klopp First Seasons –
- Wins – City were 4th with 23 wins.
- Losses – City were 4th from the bottom with 6 losses.
- Touches – City were 1st in touches with 30,363.
- Passes – City were 1st in passes with 22,706.
- Goals – City were 3rd in goals with 80, Chelsea were 2nd with 85.
- Shots – City were 3rd with 633 shots, Chelsea were 5th with 580.
- Hit the post – City were 2nd hitting the post 20 times, Chelsea were 7th hitting the post 17 times.
- Big Chances Missed – City were 2nd with 48 chances missed, Chelsea were 8th with 32 chances missed.
- Big Chances Created – City created 77 big chances, Chelsea created 48.
- Clean Sheets – City were 8th with 12 clean sheets, Chelsea were 3rd with 16 clean sheets.
- Wins – Liverpool were 5th with 22 wins.
- Losses – Liverpool were 5th least with 6 losses.
- Touches – Liverpool were 2nd with 30,071 touches.
- Passes – Liverpool were 2nd with 22,290 passes.
- Goals – Liverpool were 4th with 78 goals.
- Shots – Liverpool were 2nd with 640 shots.
- Hit the post – Liverpool were 5th hitting the post 18 times.
- Big Chances Missed – Liverpool were 6th with 35.
- Big Chances Created – Liverpool created 52 big chances.
- Clean Sheets – Liverpool were 7th with 12 clean sheets.
City finished 3rd in the league that season with 78 points Aguero again achieved 20 goals, Jesus had 7 and Sterling had 7. Chelsea on the other hand had Costa who had 20 goals, Hazard had 16, Pedro had 9, Willian had 8, Alonso had 6 and even Cahill scored 6. Liverpool at the time had Coutinho with 13 goals, Mane with 13 goals, Firmino with 11 goals, and Llallana with 8 goals. Sarri in his first season matched up to most these stats but the only thing that let Chelsea down is that we lacked a Diego Costa. Imagine if someone like Costa was in our team this season we would have a lot of our missed opportunities and won many more games.
The stats also show that philosophy does not correlate with how many goals are scored, Conte did really well in 16/17 and the 3-4-3 was enjoyable to watch because we had Costa and Hazard creating and finishing off chances. In 17/18 when Costa left Morata did not match up but we still created a similar amount of chances. Sarri has faced the same problem even though the philosophy is different, any philosophy is enjoyable to watch when the team is hitting the back of the net. Defensively Chelsea did as well as they did in the title winning season it is just that when we lost we lost heavily and so the overall picture was bad.
As far as the Premier League is concerned Sarri did not have a poor season compared to people in similar points during their Premier League career. Sarri similarly to Conte in 17/18 lacked a striker up front and that was out of his hands that fault falls on the board for failing to recruit a striker that was up to Chelsea’s calibre. A 3rd placed finish is as good as Pep got in his first season and better than Klopp, and Poch’s first season for that matter but unlike the three other managers Sarri and Chelsea only had Eden Hazard.
Thanks to our 5th placed finish last season Chelsea were in the Europa League this season and we started our journey in Group L with Bate Borisov, Vidi, and PAOK. We won 5 of the 6 group games and drew 1 having scored 12 goals and conceded 3. Chelsea then faced Malmo in the Round of 32 as we won the first leg 1-2, and the 2nd leg 3-0. Dynamo Kyiv were up next in the Round of 16 and we beat Kyiv 3-0 in the first leg, and 0-5 in the second leg. Slavia Praha were our quarter-final opponents and the first leg was a cagey 0-1 win. Our 2nd leg was even cagier as Chelsea won 4-3 at home. Frankfurt were up next and after a 1-1 draw in Germany, Chelsea and Frankfurt drew 1-1 again in London. The game went to penalties and Kepa was the hero as he made 2 saves and Chelsea went through 4-3. Arsenal were our final opponents and after a nervy 1st half Chelsea won the 2nd half 4-1 to lift the trophy. The Europa League was a stage for some key youth players to shine and it was the scene of Sarri’s first trophy and so it was a memorable competition. Chelsea became the first team to win the Europa League unbeaten and Giroud was the top scorer with 12 goals.
Chelsea’s League Cup run started with a 1-2 away win at Liverpool which contributed one of Hazard’s most memorable goals. Chelsea then beat Derby 3-2 in the next round in a tough game. In the quarter’s Chelsea faced Bournemouth who we beat 1-0. Tottenham were up next in the semi-finals and Chelsea lost the 1st leg 1-0. Chelsea then won the 2nd leg 2-1 but the aggregate meant that the game went to penalties. Chelsea won the shootout 4-2 with Kepa making some brilliant saves. In the final Chelsea faced City, and after 120 minutes the game was 0-0 with Sarri’s plan working to perfection against a rampant City. This game also contained the Kepa incident which might have influenced the team and the goalkeeper as Chelsea lost the shootout 3-4. The trophy could have been Sarri’s first but that day luck was not on Chelsea’s side.
Chelsea’s FA Cup run started with a 2-0 win against Nottingham Forest in the 3rd round. Chelsea then beat Sheffield Wednesday 3-0 in the 4th round. Chelsea’s FA Cup journey came to an end in the 5th round with a 0-2 loss to Man United. City eventually went on to win the FA Cup 6-0 against Watford in the final.
- Kepa Arizzabalaga – Kepa had a brilliant debut season in the Premier League as he kept 14 clean sheets, and was only behind Alisson, and Ederson. Kepa did not feature too much in the cup’s but was key in many of the latter stages and saved quiet a few penalties, Tottenham in the League Cup, and Frankfurt in the Europa League come to mind. The tag line of the most expensive goalkeeper did not phase him and he can only improve as he begins to become a key part of the Chelsea team, Courtois was not missed one bit.
- Jorginho – Jorginho was up next and as he was signed from Napoli as the key cog that would implement Sarri’s system, and as the season went on he went through his rough patch but ended it on a high with some brilliant performances in the end. Jorginho had the most passes in the Premier League with 3,118, Jorginho scored 2 goals and assisted none. Jorginho had no assist’s largely due to the fact that no one finished his key passes. If anyone want’s proof then there are plenty of videos on youtube which showcase it. Defensively people had a massive problem with Jorginho but the fact is that yes tackles wise Jorginho did not perform as well as Kante because the system did not require us to win the ball back as much because we were possession based. Jorginho actually had one more tackle than Kante this season 76, and 75 respectively. When it comes to being dispossessed Jorginho was 85th with 31 such moments. Hazard, Kante, Kovacic, Willian, Barkley, and Pedro were all dispossessed more times. Jorginho also had 274 recoveries of the ball to put that into context Kante had 238 and for those who might argue about Kante’s possession then Kante had 275 in the 16/17 season. Jorginho’s influence grew as the season went on and he will be key player in the future.
- Kovacic – Kovacic was signed on loan from Real Madrid as he came in the deal that took Courtois to Madrid. It took the season for Kovacic to settle in but he proved that he was an able utility player and he perhaps put in his best performance in the 2nd half against Arsenal in the Europa League final. Kovacic made 32 appearances in the League scoring no goals but assisting 2. Kovacic was also key in the Europa League as he featured heavily and played a Jorginhoesque role for most games. I personally would sign Kovacic for next season because he has proved himself to be a good squad player at the very least.
- Gonzalo Higuain – Higuain came in December as Morata left for Atletico and people expected him to bang in several goals but 6 months were not enough for him to adjust while the he was always a step ahead than the players around him. Higuain still managed to make 14 Premier League appearances and scored 5 goals in the process.
- Eden Hazard – Where to start with Eden Hazard, he was once again the key reason we finished where we did during the season as he carried our team to success. Hazard statistically had his best season under Sarri as the possession based football allowed him to influence the game much more than he would have in a counter attacking style. Hazard scored 16 goals his joint highest in the Premier League, and assisted 15 goals making his contribution at 31 goals. In the Europa League Hazard assisted 2 and scored 2 and in the league Cup he scored 3. This meant that Hazard for the first time passed the 20 goal mark in a season with 21 goals. The change in system was key and he could have broken the assist record too if he just had a decent finisher in front of him.
- N’Golo Kante – Many argued throughout the season that Kante was not as great because he was playing further forward but Kante only adapted and excelled in his new position. Kante still managed to make 238 recoveries, while also scoring 4 goals and assisting 4 goals in the Premier League. To put that into context Kante had only ever scored 3 goals in his 3 previous seasons in the Premier League. Kante just needs to improve his finishing and he could be the total package.
- Olivier Giroud – Playing 2nd fiddle can be a drag but Giroud stayed strong and was a massive reason why we won the Europa League. Giroud made 27 appearances in the league having scored 2 and assisted 4 but it was in Europe where he made his mark. Giroud played 14 games scored 11 goals and assisted 5 as he won the golden boot and scored a brilliant header against Arsenal in the final.
- Ruben Loftus-Cheek – Loftus-Cheek won his place in the team as the season went on as he began to learn Sarri’s game. Until 3 weeks ago Ruben was our 1st choice LM, and was the marauding player we had missed for so many seasons. Ruben scored 6, and assisted 2 goals in Premier League from 24 appearances. Ruben added another 4 goals and 3 assists in the Europa League from 11 appearances. Ruben’s injury might have hampered his momentum but he is well on his way to becoming a star at Chelsea.
- Callum Hudson-Odoi – It was a break out season for CHO as he made 10 appearances in the Premier League assisting 1 goal. CHO made 9 appearances in the Europa League scoring 4 and assisting 2, and scored 1 and assisted 2 in the FA Cup as well. Willian and Pedro were clearly the first choice but similarly to Ruben as the season went on and CHO began to settle into Sarri’s tactics we saw him start more games and again his injury stopped his momentum. CHO’s injury isn’t as serious as RLC’s and so he should be back or almost back when pre-season rolls around. With Hazard potentially leaving CHO is nailed on to be a starter and might even get that no.10 shirt.
This is the story of Chelsea’s season, Sarri had a great first season in English football and that has led to Juventus coming in for his signature. Whether Sarri stays or goes remains to be seen but with the divide so large in the fanbase Sarri would probably fare better in Serie A although if he stays I still believe that he would win the fans over next season. The players all played well and put in shifts when they were most needed, similarly to last season though a poor winter period left us struggling to finish in the top four while a lack of striker also hampered our push for higher positions.
Chelsea have much to think about for next season as we still have not appealed our transfer ban and we might need to rely on returning youth and loan players which might not be a bad thing. A new manager might come in and several players might leave and so Chelsea will go through another transitional season but this time we at least will be in the Champions League. COME ON YOU BLUES!!