The 2020/21 season, one of the most arduous and strangest seasons of them all, is not quite over yet for Chelsea with one match still to go – and it’s a big one.
A flight to Porto later this week awaits for the players and head coach Thomas Tuchel as they take on Manchester City in the Champions League final on Saturday night at the Estadio do Dragao.
The Premier League campaign is done and dusted though and while Tuchel will not be happy with the way his side finished the eight-month slog with 35 of the 38 games played behind closed doors for Chelsea and 17 of his 19 in charge with no fans in attendance, it is job done with fourth place in the bag.
Chelsea’s head coach has managed to do what he was asked to achieve by director Marina Granovskaia and technical director Petr Cech when he took over from the axed Frank Lampard – get a top four finish.
He did it but is indebted to Tottenham, who saw off Leicester City 4-2 at the King Power in a result that saw Brendan Rodgers’ side finish in fifth with the Blues fourth and Liverpool third behind the two Manchester clubs.
It has certainly been a season of two halves for Chelsea. The initial success under Frank Lampard up until December and then the turnaround when Tuchel came in to replace the club’s record goalscorer.
Five defeats in eight games, including a truly dismal showing away at Leicester City, cost Lampard his job. Tuchel was not long released from Paris St Germain and in he came a couple of days later with 24 hours to prepare to face Wolves, most of that done on a private jet from Paris to London.
The turnaround was instant under the German as he went unbeaten in his first 14 games before the aberration at home to West Brom when Thiago Silva’s red card caused huge consequences and a 5-2 thumping.
Another run of five league games without defeat got the Blues back on track and firmly back into the top four race, sitting in fourth spot on March 15, before a defeat to Arsenal, which Tuchel described as the biggest setback of all, derailed things slightly.
Yet they were in the driving seat having beaten Leicester as fans returned to Stamford Bridge last week. Still though, Chelsea made it difficult for themselves on the final day, going down 2-1 to Aston Villa but thanks to Tottenham’s win in Leicester, will play Champions League football next season.
Chelsea’s transformation under Tuchel has been exceptional, despite them stuttering over the line in the final minutes. From where they were to where they have ended up, Tuchel emerges with plenty of credit for the way he has coached these Chelsea players, something that Lampard clearly had lost.
Whether that is the players no longer believing in Lampard’s philosophy or that the former manager had regressed to the mean, only those at Cobham will know. But Chelsea’s Premier League campaign, while a bit rocky and very typical Chelsea of recent years, is done and they are in the top four.