Another Chelsea season has been completed and another piece of silverware is in the cabinet. Having previewed the action throughout, it is time for club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton to switch to review mode and look back at the Chelsea campaign…
Chelsea’s 84th season in the top flight and 103rd overall played out like a good novel. It started with a bang and while the middle chapters toyed with our emotions, the last few pages delivered the killer lines.
After sealing third place for the fifth time (our 22nd top-six finish in 23 campaigns and 14th top-three finish) the best was saved for last.
By the end the club’s 16th piece of silverware over the 17 years of Roman Abramovich’s ownership was in the bag; that is five Premier League titles, five FA Cups, three League Cups, one Champions League and now two Europa Leagues.
A continental campaign to savour that began with chairman Bruce Buck handing out bags of crisps to travelling fans who had been subject to long waits on coaches in Thessaloniki in Greece ended with Maurizio Sarri staring lovingly at the first major medal of his coaching career in Baku.
Remarkably, Chelsea have now claimed silverware in all but four of the past 15 campaigns, and since 1946 have taken more honours at home and abroad than any other club from the capital.
The Europa League victory over Arsenal was the Blues’ third continental success in eight years – the best run of success by an English team in Europe for 35 years.
— KEY SEASON STAT
This was the second time Chelsea’s name has been engraved on the Europa League trophy in the 10 seasons since the renaming of the UEFA Cup. Only Real Madrid, with four, have lifted more European silverware since 2012.
The win in Baku brought the Blues’ fifth major honour in European competition. Eight clubs have won more: Real (15), Barcelona, Liverpool and Milan (nine), Bayern (seven) and Ajax, Inter and Juventus (six).
Calendar-wise it was the second latest match played in a season after the FA Cup final victory over Everton in 2009, and the most distant (but meaningful) London derby in history.
Locally, three hours ahead of UK time, the game spanned two days. As Wednesday drew to a close it was 0-0, but half an hour into Thursday it was 4-1 to the Blues.
The final score was our most emphatic margin of victory in any major final, and the heftiest in the competition’s showpiece for 13 years. It also deprived rivals Arsenal of Champions League football for a third successive season while confirming the Blues as top seeds in the group stage draw.
Chelsea now have a record of seven wins, seven draws (two of which were lost on penalties) and four losses in 18 European matches against fellow English clubs.
The west Londoners also became the first team to complete a victorious major European campaign without losing a game (12 wins, three draws) since Manchester United in the 2007/08 Champions League.
Chelsea have now overtaken the Red Devils on trophies and titles won since 2000.
Maurizio Sarri is the 12th coach to win a major honour while at Chelsea.
The Italian is one of eight coaches to have lifted silverware during their first season in charge of the Blues, and one of just five men to have led the Londoners to European glory.
His compatriot Gianluca Vialli is the only one among them to lift two trophies on the continent (including the Super Cup). Three of our six European successes were recorded before Roman Abramovich took over, and three since.
2018/19 was the fifth season in which Chelsea have reached two major finals, and but for a penalty shoot-out loss to Manchester City in the League Cup final there could have been even more champagne in the past few months.
Sarri steered his team to 39 wins in all competitions this season. The only manager to ever win more in his first period in charge of Chelsea was Jose Mourinho in 2004/05 (42 wins).
THREE AND IN QUIZ
In the Premier League the Blues were one of just four teams who topped the table at some stage this season and, after a very difficult winter, recovered to finish third.
DAYS LEADING THE TABLE 2018/19
Manchester City 124
Manchester United 1
Chelsea have now finished as the highest-placed club from the capital in 12 of the past 15 Premier League campaigns, and 22 times overall since 1907/08.
The Blues managed seven league ‘doubles’ in 2018/19: Watford, Crystal Palace, Newcastle, Brighton, and the bottom three: Cardiff, Fulham, Huddersfield. No opponent managed to beat the Blues home and away.
Chelsea were unable to defeat any top-half side on that club’s own ground, but conquered three of the top five at the Bridge – where we concluded the season unbeaten in nine games. Four goalless draws in the league was the club’s highest return since 2013/14.
However, the Blues managed a rare failure to hit the net directly from a free kick in the Premier League, the first blank in that category since 2011/12.
2019/20 will be the 30th season in which the Blues have qualified for a European campaign and the 17th to offer European Cup/Champions League football. (In 1955/56 the club was invited to contest the inaugural European Cup but were coerced into rejecting the offer by the Football League.)
The return of Europe’s elite competition will bring an end to the arrhythmia of the Thursday-Sunday match schedule. After winning four and drawing two of the games immediately following Europa League group-stage action, the Blues drew two and lost four during the knockout phase – the only losses over that time. The Champions League group stage draw takes place on 29 August.
Before then, Chelsea face Liverpool in the UEFA Super Cup. The showpiece event used to be held every year in Monaco at the end of August, but is now staged earlier that month at different venues. The 2019 edition is on 15 August at Besiktas’s stadium in Istanbul, which has a capacity of just over 41,000.
We lost several figures from our past over the course of the past year, including just a couple of weeks ago Bob Edwards, an inside-forward who left the RAF to sign for Billy Birrell’s Chelsea in 1951 but played all 13 of his games for the club under successor Ted Drake, including one appearance (versus Preston) during our title-winning 1954/55 campaign.
He moved on to Swindon the following summer having scored two goals, against Tottenham and Liverpool. Chelsea Football Club sends our deepest condolences to Bob’s family and friends.
Albert Sewell died June 2018
Programme editor and statistician.
Cliff Huxford died August 2018
Tony Frewin died September 2018
1960s/70s reserve team defender.
Ken Shellito died October 2018
1960s right-back and 1970s coach and manager.
Wally Hinshelwood died November 2018
Joe Fascione died February 2019
Janet Rainbow-King died March 2019
Former ticket office & CPO administrator.
Eddie Barnett died April 2019
Former ticket office manager.
Bob Edwards died May 2019
1950s inside forward.
Thank you and farewell
A final note for your calendars: the Premier League fixtures for the 2019/20 season are released at 9am UK time next Thursday, 13 June.
Thank you very much for reading our match previews this season. We will back again with the 2019/20 Pre-Season Briefing in August.
Tomorrow this website will list the Chelsea milestones achieved in 2018/19.