Longer than ever and no shortage of talking points: the 2019/20 season won't be forgotten in a hurry. Having spent a whole year looking forward to the games, now club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton cast their minds back to a Chelsea campaign filled with highs and lows...
In other circumstances Chelsea fans would remember the past year for a wonderful Tottenham/Arsenal double whammy, a remarkable toe-to-toe with Ajax, spirited beating of Liverpool, and Manchester United, hat-tricks away to Wolves and Burnley… and a number of costly interactions with technology.
The main story, however, is that the Blues’ opening game was on 11 August 2019, and the last was on 8 August 2020 – the longest campaign in our history, thanks to the Coronavirus lockdown.
For the fourth time in the past six seasons Chelsea were Premier League kingmakers. Just like Eden Hazard’s equaliser against Spurs that crowned Leicester, so Willian’s penalty ended Manchester City’s challenge to the benefit of Jurgen Klopp’s side.
In a season like no other the Blues still maintained most of the usual standards of excellence at every level. Frank Lampard’s first season as a top-line coach ended with his young squad clinching fourth place in the Premier League. That is the highest finish place achieved by a debuting English manager in the top tier since Frank Clark and Nottingham Forest in 1994/95.
The Blues also secured Champions League football next season at the Bridge for the 17th time in 22 years. Yet again, Stamford Bridge is the only stadium in the capital where Champions League football will be staged in 2020/21.
Under the tutelage of Lampard and his staff, Chelsea reached the FA Cup final for the third occasion in four campaigns. Even though the Champions League campaign concluded in the last 16 (for the fourth time in succession), Bayern’s 8-2 demolition of a much more experienced Barcelona side in the quarter-final demands a revised perspective on the youthful Blues’ 1-4 defeat.
Elsewhere in the club, Emma Hayes’ Chelsea Women were deservedly crowned WSL champions again, with points-per-game used to determine the final rankings of a truncated campaign. In similar circumstances the Blues’ Development Squad were awarded the PL2, and our Under-18s finished as runners-up in the U-18 Premier League. They will compete in the UEFA Youth League again.
Grow your own
It is impressive that Lampard achieved his primary goal despite a transfer ban, the departure of one of the club’s all-time greats, Eden Hazard, and a doggedly extensive injury list. A batch of our highest-achieving graduates from Neil Bath’s Academy returning from loan last summer inevitably set the theme of regeneration.
To the joy of many, the homegrowns more than justified the faith placed in them since last summer. Chelsea handed playing time to 11 Academy graduates over the season – including a remarkable eight debutants – totalling 13,549 minutes in the league.
There were five ‘Rising Sons’ involved in the FA Cup final defeat to Arsenal – Tammy Abraham, Andreas Christensen, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Reece James, Mason Mount – the highest number for more than half a century. (At 21, Christian Pulisic also became the first USA player to score in an FA Cup final.)
The first 11 goals in the Premier League for Frank Lampard’s side were scored by English Academy graduates aged 21 or under (Abraham 7, Mount 3, Tomori 1).
Against Crystal Palace on 9 November, Chelsea named our youngest-ever Premier League starting XI (24 years, 88 days).
The Blues are the first team in Premier League history to have scored 11 consecutive Premier League goals (excluding own goals) with players aged 21 or younger.
Players who graduated from or spent time at Chelsea’s Academy made at least one appearance for 10 of the 20 Premier League clubs in all competitions this season.
Other than ones who figured for Chelsea in 2020/21 – Tammy Abraham, Tino Anjorin, Armando Broja, Andreas Christensen, Billy Gilmour, Marc Guehi, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Reece James, Tariq Lamptey, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Ian Maatsen, Mason Mount, Fikayo Tomori – those players were:
Eddie Nketiah (Arsenal), Nathan Ake, Chris Mepham, Dom Solanke (Bournemouth), Jack Cork (Burnley), Patrick van Aanholt (Crystal Palace), Rhian Brewster, Isaac Christie-Davies (Liverpool), Di’Shon Bernard (Manchester Utd), Ryan Bertrand (Southampton), Nathaniel Chalobah, Domingos Quina (Watford), Declan Rice (West Ham).
The restart revival
Football lore states ‘it’s the draws that kill you’ and after the restart the Blues’ acquired a habit of avoiding stalemates that worked to great effect, with wins accounting for two-thirds of results as opposed to a little under half before the virus struck.
The points-per-game yield rose by 20 per cent, helping to overhaul Leicester City, and pointing to plenty of potential improvement in the coming campaign.
The Blues also completed a Premier League double over Spurs for the first time since 2005/06. No Jose Mourinho side had previously been beaten home and away in the league by the same opponent.
Premier League ‘doubles’
Crystal Palace (14)
Aston Villa (17)
Man United (3)
West Ham (16)
As well as finishing the season as London highest-placed club for the 13th time in the past 16 seasons (the exceptions being 2011/12, 2015/16, and 2017/18), Chelsea beat our four local rivals to the crown of derby kings in the capital.
The Blues are the first ever team to beat Tottenham at White Hart Lane, Wembley Stadium, and the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in the Premier League.
Against West Ham the Blues did not concede a single foul for the first time in any Premier League game since Opta began recording such data in 2003/04.
The victory at home to Norwich in July was only the second 1-0 of the league season at the Bridge. There were plenty of unique scorelines in away games.
Sadly, we do not know when supporters will be allowed back to the Bridge. When we are, it is imperative we make the stadium a more unsympathetic space than visiting teams found last season, where five times as many league defeats were registered compared to 2018/19, but only four goals more were conceded.
The Blues achieved the sixth-best home league record, but ranked fourth on the road. The hat-tricks for Tammy Abraham at Wolves, and Christian Pulisic at Burnley were the Blues’ 25th and 26th of the Premier League era; Pulisic’s was the 150th to be scored by a Chelsea player in all competitions since 1905.
Abraham (aged 21 years 347 days) was briefly Chelsea’s youngest scorer of a Premier League treble. However, Christian Pulisic (21 years, 38 days) beat the record a little over a month later. No Premier League club had previously had two different hat-trick scorers aged 21 or under in the same campaign.
2019/20 was the first league season to use the Video Assistant referee system. Quite apart from controversial events in the FA Cup final, Chelsea might not feel the new technology was our best friend. In fact, the Blues ended up as the only top six side in negative equity with the review system.
Net VAR overturns
Manchester Utd +7
Crystal Palace +4
Manchester City 0
Aston Villa -3
West Ham -4
Sheffield Utd -5
Goals ruled out by VAR
Azpilicueta Liverpool (PL h) offside in the build-up
Azpilicueta Ajax (CL h) handball by Tammy Abraham
Zouma Man Utd (PL h) foul by Cesar Azpilicueta
Giroud Man Utd (PL h) offside
Hudson-Odoi Bayern Munich (CL a) offside
Goals given by VAR
Pulisic Valencia (CL a) originally disallowed for offside
Thank you and farewell
Willian debuted Sep 2013
Pedro Aug 2015
Tariq Lamptey Dec 2019
Arthur Blackley - died Aug 2020
Late 1950s youth and reserve stalwart
Micky Block - Dec 2019
Pacy winger of the late 1950s
Peter Bonetti - Apr 2020
Legendary goalkeeper and coach
Dale Jasper - Jan 2020
Versatile Neal-era defender/midfielder
Eileen Pitfield - Aug 2020
Well-known and dedicated supporter
Dennis Sorrell - Nov 2019
Hard-tackling early 1960s midfielder
Many thanks for reading our column this season. We will be back with the unmissable Pre-Season Briefing in September.