End of season report card for the Champions League winners

End of season report card for the Champions League winners


Just six months ago, Chelsea were facing a battle to finish in the top half of the Premier League table. Now, they’re the champions of Europe.

Frank Lampard was relieved of his duties in January after his Chelsea side fell to ninth, but not only did Thomas Tuchel manage to steady the ship, but he delivered the biggest prize in club football, ensuring Pep Guardiola’s wait for European glory with Manchester City goes on.

Here’s a deeper dive into the Blues’ season.

Premier League – 4th

Christian Pulisic, Matt Targett
Chelsea squeezed into the top four | Clive Mason/Getty Images

If you asked Chelsea fans at the start of the season if they’d be happy with narrowly winning a top-four battle, most would turn you down without hesitation.

Lampard had promised that his side would make a little bit of noise in the title race, so when they rose to the top of the table in November, spirits were incredibly high. Everything was going to plan, and then the entire world started to crumble.

The legendary midfielder was sacked in January after a run of two wins in nine games had Chelsea in tenth, and Tuchel was brought in to try and salvage the season by creeping back into the top four.

Frank Lampard
Lampard was sacked in January | Pool/Getty Images

Aided by the fact everyone around them was determined to mess up, Chelsea flew up the table by losing just once in their first 16 league games under Tuchel, and they looked certainties for a spot in the top four when they beat City 1-0 with three games to go.

That’s when Chelsea decided to sabotage themselves.

A 1-0 loss to Arsenal saw the Blues dragged back into the race, but a 2-1 win over Leicester meant Chelsea entered the final day meeting with Aston Villa knowing they needed to at least match the Foxes or Liverpool’s results to secure a spot in the top four.

Chelsea couldn’t have played much worse if they tried, losing 2-1 and relying on a Gareth Bale masterclass to keep Leicester at bay and secure fourth for the Blues.

Carabao Cup – 4th round

Érik Lamela, Mateo Kovacic
Chelsea were bested in the League Cup | Visionhaus/Getty Images

Chelsea exited the Carabao Cup so early that we had honestly forgotten all about their short run in the competition.

A 6-0 mauling of Barnsley in the third round was accentuated by a Kai Havertz hat-trick, but Chelsea were out by the time October arrived as a 1-1 draw with Tottenham ended in a penalty shoot-out defeat for Lampard’s men.

FA Cup – runners up

Christian Pulisic
The new kit didn’t bring Chelsea luck | Marc Atkins/Getty Images

The FA Cup went a lot better for Chelsea. A 4-0 win over Morecambe in the third round was fun, before Lampard went out on a high with a 3-1 win over Luton which saw Mason Mount named captain of his team for the first time.

Tuchel’s side were still learning his methods when they snuck past Barnsley, before doing away with Sheffield United to set up a semi-final meeting with quadruple-hunting City.

Chelsea were outstanding as they kept City quiet and secured a 1-0 victory, and they entered the final with Leicester as slight favourites to win, but we all know how Chelsea hate being the safe bet – the overdog, if you will.

The Blues decided they weren’t feeling it when they arrived at Wembley and were bested by a screamer of a strike from Youri Tielemans.

Champions League – winners

Damn right they were winners.

After Lampard kept Chelsea unbeaten in a group which featured Sevilla, Krasnodar and Rennes, it was over to Tuchel to navigate the knockout rounds.

First to fall were Atletico Madrid, with Chelsea making the eventual La Liga winners look thoroughly average en route to a 3-0 aggregate victory. Olivier Giroud’s bicycle kick was good, but not as good as the look on Luis Suarez’s face when he realised Antonio Rudiger wasn’t the guy to mess with.

Porto were no match in the quarter-final, although they did hand the Blues their only loss in the competition in the second leg, and Real Madrid couldn’t stop them either. Chelsea beat the Spaniards 3-1 over two legs but easily could have had four or five goals in each game.

Then came the final, in which Tuchel put on a tactical masterclass and N’Golo Kante started his Ballon d’Or 2021 campaign as Chelsea roared to victory over City.

Mason Mount
Mount had an unreal season | Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images

This one’s easy. Belle Silva. Thiago’s wife has been outstanding on social media and is already pushing for a statue outside the Bridge.

However, if we have to give the best player award to an actual player, it’s got to be Mason Mount.

Towards the end of Lampard’s reign, Mount was the only player who looked like he wanted to play, and after being snubbed by Tuchel in his first game against Wolves, the young midfielder erupted and quickly became one of the best players in the entire division.

Lampard promised the world that Mount was something special, and now the sceptics have been forced to listen.

Emerson Palmieri
Emerson didn’t rise to the challenge | Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Meme culture might want this to be Timo Werner, but 12 goals and 15 assists in all competitions in his debut season proves he wasn’t as bad as critics want you to believe.

Instead, it’s got to go to Emerson, the left-back who failed to impress either Tuchel or Lampard. Ben Chilwell was excellent ahead of him and Marcos Alonso even enjoyed a mini-resurgence, but Emerson couldn’t match it and is now staring the exit door in the face.

Thomas Tuchel
Tuchel worked wonders | Alex Livesey – Danehouse/Getty Images

Lampard did a decent job, but Tuchel proved just how much the legendary midfielder still has to learn in management.

The German arrived to a defensive laughing stock and immediately turned Chelsea into one of the hardest teams to beat on the continent. Bringing in a three-man defence and welcoming Rudiger and Cesar Azpilicueta in from the cold were both masterstrokes, and the way he out-thought other managers with such ruthless perfectionism was almost scary at times.

Unfortunately, we can’t be 100% positive about Tuchel, whose treatment of Tammy Abraham was downright bizarre. The young Englishman, who was Chelsea’s top scorer when Tuchel arrived, was aggressively frozen out and would repeatedly be left at home so the boss could name two left-backs on the bench.

The Champions League final saw Tuchel name two goalkeepers on the bench instead of calling on Abraham, which really is inexplicable. Abraham ended the season as Chelsea’s joint-top scorer alongside Werner, despite playing 2,300 fewer minutes.

Instinctively, you want to give this season an A+. Chelsea are the champions of Europe. It literally does not get better than that.

The problem is that Chelsea spent a good chunk of this season being pretty useless and had to sack their manager before it got too humiliating. Even when Tuchel came in, they still nearly fluffed the top-four race and completely bottled the FA Cup final.

There were some major flaws in the campaign, but let’s not pretend like winning the Champions League doesn’t mask over them. The 2020/21 season will be remembered forever at Stamford Bridge, so a near-perfect grade is the only possible choice.

Grade: A-

For more from ​Tom Gott, follow him on ​Twitter!





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