Chelsea 2020/21 Season Review: Thomas Tuchel to the Rescue

There was a lot of hope for Chelsea coming into the 2020/21 season. No-one spent more money on transfers across Europe in the summer – £222 million in total – which led many to believe they could make a push for the Premier League title. Although they struggled in the league at times, Chelsea surprised everyone by winning the Champions League.

It was a tale of two halves for Chelsea this time out. Frank Lampard struggled to build on an impressive debut campaign, and was gone shortly after Christmas. Thomas Tuchel came in and steadied the ship. The former Paris Saint-Germain manager led the Blues to the FA Cup final, and secured Champions League football by finishing fourth. Of course, the crowning moment came on Saturday, May 29, when they defeated Manchester City 1-0 to lift their second Champions League trophy.

Chelsea 2020/21 Season Review

Lampard Fails to Build on Previous Campaign

There was a lot of hope for Frank Lampard following his efforts the previous season. He achieved a fourth place finish when forced to use many products of the youth academy. When Roman Abramovich splashed the cash on the likes of Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Ben Chilwell and Hakim Ziyech, the expectation was that Chelsea would challenge for the title.

Chelsea made a pretty good start to the 2020/21 season. Lampard’s men only lost to Liverpool in their first 11 league games and topped their Champions League group too. Their defence was starting to look much more assured too, following the additions of Thiago Silva and Edouard Mendy. However, come December, the wheels began to fall off.

The next eight Premier League games would be the defining moments of Chelsea’s season under Frank Lampard. They picked up just seven points during this time, and fell to ninth in the table. In addition, there were reportedly numerous issues behind the scenes. Ultimately, it all led to Lampard’s sacking, and he was quickly replaced by Thomas Tuchel.

Tuchel Revitalises Chelsea

Thomas Tuchel joined Chelsea on January 26 and was ruthless in his approach to turn things around at Stamford Bridge. The likes of Antonio Rudiger and Marcos Alonso were restored to the squad, as he implemented his own style through a 3-4-1-2 formation. The dramatic change brought dramatic results, as Chelsea went unbeaten in Tuchel’s first 14 games in all competitions.

Moreover, they kept an astonishing 12 clean sheets during this period. Chelsea shot up to fourth in the table, and secured Champions League football on the final day of the season, despite a 2-1 defeat to Aston Villa. Tuchel also guided Chelsea into the FA Cup final, where they lost 1-0 to Leicester City. That wouldn’t be the only final they would compete in, as they beat Manchester City in the Champions League final to make a topsy-turvy season a memorable one.

The one criticism of Chelsea under Tuchel is their inability to score goals. On only one occasion have they scored more than twice in a game, in a 4-1 win against Crystal Palace in April. Their top scorer in the league was Jorginho with seven goals, all of which came from the penalty spot. A natural goalscorer is likely to be at the top of their shopping list this summer.

Champions League Campaign to Remember

When predicting the Champions League winner at the start of the season, Chelsea would not have been in many people’s conversations. But Thomas Tuchel has written himself into Chelsea folklore by winning the Champions League for the second time in the club’s history. Frank Lampard played his part in the campaign by winning his group against Sevilla, Rennes and Krasnodar.

Tuchel navigated his side through a tricky knockout stage. They beat Atletico Madrid 3-0 in the round of 16, which featured a glorious bicycle kick from Olivier Giroud. After overcoming Porto in the quarter-final, the Blues enjoyed a reunion with Eden Hazard as they faced Real Madrid. The most successful European side of the last decade were no match for Chelsea, who progressed to the final after a 3-1 aggregate win.

It was an all English final as Manchester City participated in their first ever Champions League final. Tuchel had already got the better of Pep Guardiola twice in his short spell, and made it a hat-trick when it mattered most. Kai Havertz chose the right time to score his first Champions League goal. His effort in the 42nd minute sealed the win on a miraculous night in Porto.

New Signings Struggle to Live up to Expectation

Chelsea once again flaunted their wealth in the transfer window, having been under a transfer embargo the previous year. No one spent more money on players than them this season, and whilst it did ultimately end in Champions League glory, many of the new boys came under intense scrutiny throughout the campaign.

Chelsea broke their transfer record to sign Kai Havertz from Bayer Leverkusen. The 21-year-old seemed unable to cope with the pace of Premier League football when he first arrived. He also suffered badly with COVID-19, which slowed his progress further. He showed glimpses of his best towards the back end of the season though, and his Champions League-winning goal is worth the hefty price tag alone.

Timo Werner also struggled throughout the season. The German scored 28 Bundesliga goals in 2019/20, however found the back of the net only ten times in all competitions this season. Moreover, his expected goals was 18.5, emphasising his worries in front of goal. Hakim Ziyech also failed to replicate the form he showcased at Ajax, achieving just ten goal involvements.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom though. Ben Chilwell impressed at his new club, culminating in an impressive performance in the Champions League final. Edouard Mendy put an end to Chelsea’s goalkeeper issues, keeping 16 clean sheets in 31 games. The free signing of Thiago Silva was arguably the best signing, providing essential experience to the Chelsea back-line. The Brazilian now looks set to extend his contract at the Bridge.

Players of the Season

N’Golo Kante deserves a lot of credit for his performances this season. He set the bar very high in his first two seasons in England and has arguably unfairly gone under the radar in recent years. He is once again getting the appreciation he deserves. Kante was named as player of the match in each of the two semi-final legs, as well as the final itself.

However, it was Mason Mount who was rightfully named as Chelsea’s player of the year. Week in, week out, Mount proved to be a vital component in the Chelsea side. Whether under Lampard or Tuchel, Mount hardly missed a game (just six in total) and was a consistent performer throughout the season. Once labelled as ‘Lampard’s son’, Mount has certainly proved his quality and value this season.

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