To all my friends on the greatest podcast: thank you for doing this show to give us more of what we love; Chelsea.
Now that I’ve had a few hours to digest that cup loss, I have a few thoughts on the season as a whole, and where we and why we’re there. I apologize for the length.
1. With the transfer ban and losing Hazard, Luiz, Cahill, and Cesc, we were left extremely thin on players that could lead the team and take over a game. From my perspective the only players left on the squad this season that could be vocal leaders were Azpi and Jorginho, the latter being more of a creator than a leader. Neither of them are the type of player who can really take over a game and control it, and neither can really carry the team and push them to win. Other senior players that were here this year don’t seem to be vocal enough to really be leaders either, Willian and Giroud are just too nice.
2. Youth players have needed to step up into senior roles that are empty, and have to go against players that have played top tier football for years. This leads to many growing pains and mistakes as they adjust to the speed and physicality of the Premier League.
3. Kepa has been spotty at best, and seems to have no confidence at all of protecting his area. In the Premier League and all other top levels of professional football, a successful team needs to have a strong keeper who is not afraid to go up and get a ball when the box is congested, and who will do anything to keep the ball out of the net. Kepa hasn’t done that. I’m on team Big Willy after the last Liverpool match.
4. Injuries have kept strong members of our team on the sideline for a majority of the season. Kante, R
Loftus-Cheek, Hudson-Odoi, Tomori, and Gilmour just to name a few. Now add Pulisic, Pedro, Willian, and Azpi to that list. Nearly an entire squad on the sideline with injuries for different parts of the season.
5. Frank is in his first year as a manager in the Premier League. On top of that it’s for a side that’s expected to be in top 4 contention every year. He went into this knowing he had to adjust the team to his play-style, and tinker with formation to try and find something that worked in order to achieve that goal. This is why we saw so many changes in formation and players on the field, trying to find what worked best for different opponents.
6. A global pandemic which shut the sports world down, meaning players couldn’t train together, then have to come back after a few months off and finish the season. Clearly there would be some rust getting knocked off.
Now all these things being said, I personally thought we could expect to end anywhere from 7-10th place in the League, and I didn’t think we would have a run in any cup competitions, simply due to lack of experience and depth.
But, if you look at some of the season’s highlights, it paints a different picture.
1. This squad played Ajax and ended up 4-4 in one of the most exciting matches I’ve ever seen. If not for an unlucky handball at the end, we would have won 5-4. I don’t think I’ve ever sweat or swore as much as I did during that match, but I loved it. I’ve probably watched it 4 or 5 times now.
2. We beat Tottenham a couple days before Christmas, an early present. We beat Liverpoop (yes that’s how I choose to spell it) and Man City, both games nearly everyone had us pegged to lose.
3. We made it to the FA Cup final, and we’re in the round of 16 in the Champions League. I didn’t think any of that was possible at the beginning of the year.
4. Who could forget the Youth that got us there. Tammy in great form early. Mason Mount solidifying himself as an essential starter for the team. Reece James being arguably our strongest defender. Billy Gilmour making Liverpool look silly. And Pulisic finding himself after the season restart.
So, for me looking back, it’s been a successful season. Highs and lows as always, but we did much better than I expected. I’m looking forward to the game against Bayern, and to the start of next season. We’ve got some exciting players coming in, and the Youth have got a season under their belts now. Hopefully players can get back to match fitness so we can field our strongest squad every week.
Thanks again for taking the time to do the pod, and for reading this. IF this stuff clears up, I hope to see you all at The Bridge soon, and for a beer after.