End of Season Report: Chelsea

22May 2013

England - Premier League

 

Thanks but no thanks Rafa; the title beckons for Jose...

 

Season Summary - 3rd/Europa League champions

 

Ultimately, a hugely draining and dramatic season ended with success on two fronts though it was underpinned by the hugely unpopular decision to bring in Rafa Benitez  in as manager in November.

 

Though the Europa League trophy was not one of their targets at the outset, its procurement continued the relentless hoarding of silverware in the Roman Abramovich  era. And, in light of an 11-point and three place improvement in the Premier League which guarantees a return to the Champions League by default in 2013/14, Chelsea  fans could not have asked for much more in the end.

 

As it was, Chelsea began their 2012/13 campaign replete with exciting new editions Eden Hazard and young Brazilian Oscar in brilliant form.

 

Top of the league after a 4-2 win at Tottenham in mid-October and playing a fluid brand of football under Roberto Di Matteo, many observers were touting Chelsea as the  team to beat to the title at that point.

 

However, an unforeseen downturn in results culminated in crashing out of the Champions League at the group stages and cost Di Matteo his job.

 

 

Talking Points

 

If managerial madness has been a theme of this season then the catalyst was unquestionably Chelsea's decision to axe their Champions League-winning coach before  installing Benitez as an 'interim' manager. Given Rafa's history of battling Chelsea in his Liverpool days, the news was about as well received by their fans as a fart  in an elevator.

 

For some elements of the Stamford Bridge faithful, this appointment has remained unforgivable, even in the light of Rafa delivering a Champions League place and a  trophy.

The Spaniard was repeatedly targeted with vocal abuse by the home support and generally encountered boo boys whether home or away in charge of the Blues.

 

Other major developments included Rafa's decision to omit John Terry for many games and the protracted contract saga with Frank Lampard which now finally appears  resolved.

 

The shadow of Jose Mourinho grew ever larger as the season progressed too and he's now the 1.08 favourite to return to the Bridge.

 

 

Plus and Minus Points

 

Much like at Manchester United, over the decade Chelsea have developed a culture of winning trophies and, given the circumstances, bagging another is quite an  achievement.

 

There have been some brilliant individual performers for Chelsea, not least Juan Mata, who mesmerised again in a blue shirt as part of the 'three amigos' alongside  Hazard and Oscar. David Luiz has emerged into a real force and Cesar Azpilicueta has looked a shrewd addition at right-back.

 

Obviously Lampard reaching double figures in the Premier League yet again at age 34 is a remarkable feat and the by-product of breaking Bobby Tambling's all-time  record was fully merited by this outstanding player.

 

On the other side of the cheek was the club's baffling and seemingly disrespectful decision not to offer Lampard a contract extension much earlier in the campaign. A  player of his ilk, who has given such phenomenal service to the club, deserved far better treatment.

 

Fernando Torres remains an enigma in a Chelsea strip. It's hard to criticise the Spaniard too heavily following a return of 23 goals in all competitions, though just  eight in the Premier League is not a £50 million return.

 

 

What Next?

 

After finishing the season on such a high, Chelsea should only have eyes on winning the title next season - currently rated at 3.6 - especially given the other managerial changes happening in Manchester.

 

If, as expected, Mourinho turns up at the Bridge, Chelsea have a proven Premier League and Champions League winner and, after European glory eluded him the first time  around, this may get priority. Another top striker is needed.

 

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Keywords: End of Season, Chelsea

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