The latest start and the greatest finish. Chelsea’s 2020/21 campaign was a rollercoaster ride, and here club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton make sense of it all…
The community of hope that grew across the country over the past 18 months found expression of a specific kind for the Chelsea family in Porto. Just as our lives were being released from lockdown, a 21-year-old German made history to the unbridled joy of Blues everywhere.
Kai Havertz’s elegant goal was one of those moments that make us, clinching the club’s second European Cup and sixth UEFA trophy. In the elite club of five who have won every major UEFA trophy, the Blues are now the only one to have bagged two of each. Meanwhile, none of our London neighbours has one Champions League.
The football world’s biggest club final had a TV and digital audience of almost nine million in the UK, and in the USA the viewing figure was 39 per cent bigger than the most recent all-English affair between Liverpool and Tottenham in 2019.
As well as revenue estimated at £100m, the win brings prize entry into the Super Cup against Villarreal in August, when a win would put Chelsea level on European trophies with Manchester United, and the FIFA Club World Cup, slated for Japan in December.
It is also the first honour earned in a year ending in ‘1’ since the Cup Winners’ Cup half a century ago – when we beat Manchester City in the semi-finals twice by the same 1-0 scoreline.
The three former Academy players who played in Porto formed the largest such cohort for the Blues in a European final since that 1971 victory over this year’s vanquished semi-finalists, Real Madrid.
For the first time in our 116-year history the Blues reached a major final for the fifth season in succession and, as in 2019, 2012, 2008, 2007 and 1998, there were two to contest. Sadly, our 10th FA Cup final of the century was destined to go the way of first-time winners Leicester.
Three days later a revenge win against the Foxes helped secure fourth place in the league for the second season running, and only the fourth time in the club’s top-flight history. In fact, Chelsea have finished in a higher position only 16 times previously.
The experienced Bavarian coach’s impact was immediate and enduring. Switching tactics to a back three that bolstered defence and wing-backs who supported the attack, and with less regular players brought back in, the team embarked on a remarkable run.
Tuchel was undefeated in his first 14 games in all competitions – a record for any Chelsea boss. That is a wonderful habit, but something else was stirring too.
The East Stand celebrations by sidelined team-mates as Chelsea beat Liga leaders Atletico 2-0 in March revealed the team spirit that would help sweep the Blues all the way to two finals, echoing another season with a mid-season change of coach: 2012.
By the final thrilling whistle in Porto Tuchel had masterminded victories over some of the world’s greatest coaches: Pep Guardiola (three times), Diego Simeone (twice), Zinedine Zidane, Jurgen Klopp, Jose Mourinho, and Carlo Ancelotti. By beating Atletico, Real Madrid, and City, no one could say the triumph in Estadio do Dragao was undeserved.
The winning goal reflected the twin pillars of Roman Abramovich’s plan for the club: a sumptuous pass from Academy graduate Mason Mount and a cultured finish from Kai Havertz, one of our most expensive signings.
In the Premier League, only champions Manchester City outperformed Chelsea once Tuchel had arrived, and the Blues have now equalled Arsenal for league victories over the Premier League era. Only Manchester United have managed more.
As a result of the Covid lockdown, the Premier League season began for Chelsea on Monday 14 September – our first opening day in that month for 106 years, and the latest ever in our history.
The first 10 seasons leading up to World War One all started in September, the latest being 7 September 1907. All seasons since then have begun in August.
On 13 April 2021, Chelsea also made history by playing a ‘home’ game away from Stamford Bridge for the first time. Covid travel restrictions meant both legs of the Champions League quarter-final clash with Porto were staged at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan in Seville.
Ironically, for the same reason the final of the competition was later moved to Porto’s home ground, producing our second win in that stadium in five attempts.
The past two campaigns have been affected by the pandemic, with a significant number of matches played behind closed doors.
Crowd-free stadiums were used to explain the apparent loss of home advantage across the Premier League, with away wins (40 per cent) outstripping those for the host (38 per cent).
For the first time since 2015/16 (when we finished 10th) the Blues earned a marginal majority of our top-flight points on the road. In 2019/20, 55 per cent of our total came at the Bridge and 45 per cent on opposition grounds.
Despite the intensity of the shortened schedule, the number of times they were called into action, and the prevalence of coronavirus, Chelsea’s players missed fewer matches through injury or illness than any other Premier League club.
According to the specialist website @PremierInjuries, the Blues had 26 injuries or illnesses in 2020/21, at a rate of one absence every 201 minutes played. A cumulative total of 54 games were missed, which was 32 better than the next fewest, Arsenal, on 86.
Victory over Manchester City in Porto brought the 27th major honour to the club’s trophy cabinet and the 22nd in the past 24 years. All the silverware is on show in a new display at the official museum, which recently reopened along with stadium tours.
English clubs - most major honours
1 Liverpool 45
2 Manchester United 43
3 Arsenal 32
4 Chelsea 27
5 Manchester City 22
6 Aston Villa 21
7 Tottenham Hotspur 17
8 Everton 13
9 Newcastle 12
10 Blackburn Rovers 11
= Nottingham Forest 11
London is Blue
Chelsea also finished the season as London’s highest-placed club for the 14th time in 16 seasons and the 24th occasion since 1907/08.
VAR better for Blues
This was the second Premier league season involving the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system. Although it may not have felt like it, Chelsea fared far better on VAR overturns in 2020/21 than during the previous campaign.
Of the 13 Stockley Park interventions this season where a review led to a change of decision, the net result was plus three goals for the Blues, compared to minus two last season.
Thanks Frank and Jody
Both Chelsea’s Champions League triumphs came after a mid-season managerial change. Two true Blues, Frank Lampard and Jody Morris, did a good job in very difficult circumstances last season and this. Before results went awry they had navigated the team safely through to the knockout phase of the Champions League as group winners – and we would not even have been in it to win it but for their contribution in 2019/20.
Chelsea Women go from strength to strength
Chelsea Women were in near-unstoppable form again this season, dominating the WSL for back-to-back titles and winning 18 of their 22 matches.
The attacking duo of Sam Kerr and Fran Kirby was especially delightful to watch, the Aussie winning the Golden Boot and the latter being crowned the Player of the Season. Manager of the Season Emma Hayes, who also steered her stellar crew to Conti Cup glory and a maiden Champions League final, may yet complete a famous treble when the postponed FA Cup quarter-finals resume in September. Season tickets are available here
Premier League – fourth
FA Cup – runners-up
Carabao Cup – fourth round
Champions League – Winners
FA Women’s Super League – winners
2019/20 Women’s FA Cup – quarter-final
2020/21 Women’s FA Cup – quarter-final (resumes September)
Continental League Cup – winners
Women’s Community Shield - winners
UEFA Women’s Champions League – runners-up
Premier League 2 – runners-up
Checkatrade Trophy – group stage
U18s Premier League – seventh
2019/20 FA Youth Cup – runners-up
2020/21 FA Youth Cup – fifth round
U17s Premier League Cup – group stage