Chelsea FC Season Review: Breaking Down Frank Lampard’s First Year At Helm In West London

Chelsea 2019/20 Season Review - Chelsea celebrate a goal
Chelsea's US midfielder Christian Pulisic celebrates scoring the opening goal with Chelsea's French striker Olivier Giroud and teammates during the English FA Cup final football match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium in London, on August 1, 2020. (Photo by Catherine Ivill / POOL / AFP)

When Chelsea Football Club announced at the end of last season that the role of first-team manager would be taken over by Frank Lampard from Maurizio Sarri, there was no lack of commotion in the air. While some of even the most optimistic of followers had their doubts about whether a year’s experience at Derby County would be enough, rival fans were quick to mock the Blues for the move.

Many expected Chelsea to finish the season in a mid-table position, considering that Sarri chose to join Juventus after just a single year at Stamford Bridge. Added to the change in manager, the London club also had to deal with the most painful transfer exit the Premier League has seen in recent years. Eden Hazard’s departure from Chelsea was conducted in the most gracious manner possible, but saying that the Blues’ front-line has missed his exploits would only be an understatement.

Despite the arrival of Christian Pulisic, the Pensioners were unable to make any other additions to the squad going into the season because of a two-window transfer ban. Not only did this place a massive handicap on the Chelsea squad, but it also restricted Lampard from expressing himself in the best possible manner. Although the ban was cut short in January, the lack of quality options meant that the Stamford Bridge club went through the winter without making any additions.

Here Is The Chelsea 2019/20 Season Review:

Chelsea 2019/20 Season Review - Lampard looks on
Chelsea’s English head coach Frank Lampard (R) and his players inspect the pitch prior to the UEFA Champions League, second-leg round of 16, football match FC Bayern Munich v FC Chelsea in Munich, southern Germany on August 8, 2020. (Photo by Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP)

Chelsea 2019/20 Season Review

Initial Signs

The Blues’ pre-season friendlies didn’t play out all that well, after which their first game of the Premier League season saw them get absolutely walloped 4-0 by Manchester United. After that result though, for a couple of months, this Chelsea team was the talk of the town. Youthful through and through and featuring a multitude of players who all came through the Chelsea youth system, the mood around Cobham was undoubtedly on the rise.

The likes of Reece James, Fikayo Tomori, Mason Mount, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Tammy Abraham all stepped up to the plate when required, and Lampard was praised heavily for his management of these young stars. The gaffer earned further deserved plaudits for how he handled the introduction of American speedster Christian Pulisic. He wasn’t just tossed into the fray by Lampard, who instead opted to test out the waters before throwing the American in. One thing that can be said with certainty is that Pulisic had a quite brilliant first season in London.

Chelsea 2019/20 Season Review - Kante and Guardiola
Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola elbow bumps with Chelsea’s French midfielder N’Golo Kante after the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Manchester City at Stamford Bridge in London on June 25, 2020. – Chelsea won the match 2-1. (Photo by PAUL CHILDS / POOL / AFP)

The Hardships

Consistency

The Blues’ alarming lack of consistency was always going to be a problem, and that’s arguably what cost them a variety of points all through the year. Defeats at the hands of sides like Bournemouth and West Ham United did next to nothing to help their cause, while the UEFA Super Cup final defeat to Liverpool, despite having its fair share of positives, was a night to forget for the London club as well. The inability to carry momentum from one match to another was gradually becoming a massive cause for concern.

Clarity Over First-Choice Striker

Frank Lampard, at least during the first half of the season, saw Olivier Giroud as the third-choice striker at the club, behind both Tammy Abraham and Michy Batshuayi. Although the Englishman perhaps deserved his spot as number one, placing the Belgian above Giroud is a move that the manager would come to regret. Once Abraham picked up a knock post-Christmas, Lampard realised that depending on Batshuayi was never going to be viable. That’s when Olivier Giroud was thrown back into the mix, and he hasn’t turned back from the move since.

Chelsea 2019/20 Season Review - Chelsea players react
French referee Stephanie Frappart (L) speaks with Chelsea’s players (R) during the UEFA Super Cup 2019 football match between FC Liverpool and FC Chelsea at Besiktas Park Stadium in Istanbul on August 14, 2019. (Photo by Bulent Kilic / AFP) (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP via Getty Images)

Identifying The Best Defensive Unit

The Blues started the season with four natural central defensive options to choose from, but despite some decent performances over the course of the season, not one of them would’ve filled the manager with a lot of confidence. Andreas Christensen’s development seemed to have stunted, as his erratic and mistake-prone nature made him a risk to deploy. Antonio Rudiger, easily the Blues’ best defender, seemed to completely lose the plot in the second half of the season. Kurt Zouma’s poor positioning and awareness in the box has cost Chelsea on various occasions, while Fikayo Tomori is still far too young to be depended upon regularly.

Over the years, one of Chelsea’s biggest selling points has been their rather miserly defensive-line. This time around though, that regular game-plan that has been deployed for years seemed to have been thrown out of the window. The Blues boasted the worst defensive numbers in the entire top half of the league, having conceded more goals than the likes of Wolves, Arsenal and even Sheffield United this season.

The High-Points

One of the achievements that this Chelsea team should be proud of is the fact that over the course of the season, Chelsea have beaten each of the other sides in the Premier League’ Big Six’ on at least one occasion. This included league wins against Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester City, and FA Cup knockout round wins against Manchester United and Liverpool.

Chelsea 2019/20 Season Review - Chelsea players celebrate
Chelsea’s Brazilian midfielder Willian (C) celebrates with teammates after he scoring the team’s second goal during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Manchester City at Stamford Bridge in London on June 25, 2020. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / POOL / AFP)

Furthermore, the expectation levels of the Chelsea fans going into the campaign was minimal. Still, as things turned out, it ended up being a pretty satisfying year for the Stamford Bridge club. Yes, the defeat to Arsenal in the FA Cup final was a rare blemish in what was otherwise, a positive season. Despite this, things are looking on the up in West London, as they’ve already completed the mammoth acquisitions of both Hakim Ziyech from Ajax and Timo Werner from Leipzig.

Another massive positive for Chelsea at the end of the season was the resurgence of Christian Pulisic after the lockdown period. Although the American showed signs of brilliance in the early parts of the season, he missed a majority of the Christmas period with an adductor injury. Since the resumption of football though, the former Dortmund man had been one of the most in-form wingers in the entirety of Europe. Their form through the initial parts of the campaign carried them to the Round of 16 of the Champions League as well, where they were unfortunately battered 7-1 on aggregate by Bayern Munich.

Tammy Abraham finished the season as the Blues’ top scorer in the league. At the same time, both Mason Mount and Christian Pulisic were nominated for the ‘Premier League Young Player Of The Year’ award. While the former had a real breakthrough season in his first year in the top-flight, the latter has, within the space of a number of months, managed to win over the hearts of not just the entire Chelsea fan-base, but anyone who even remotely enjoys the beautiful game. Frank Lampard has been nominated for the Premier League’ Manager Of The Year’ award as well.

Chelsea 2019/20 Season Review - Pulisic celebrates
LONDON, ENGLAND – AUGUST 01: Christian Pulisic of Chelsea celebrates after he scores his sides first goal during the Heads Up FA Cup Final match between Arsenal and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium on August 01, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Adam Davy/Pool via Getty Images)

The Verdict

With the likes of Willian and Pedro now set to depart Stamford Bridge, next season will trigger a new era in the future of this historic football club. The likes of Werner and Ziyech have the potential to completely change the Blues’ playing style next season, and with all the youngsters available in the roster as well, it’s assured to be exciting times ahead for the London club.

The Blues started the season looking like the underdogs for the European places, and even the most passionate of fans would’ve easily conceded that a Champions League place was out of the question. Months down the line and Chelsea, despite dropping one position from last season, have finished the campaign in 4th place, thereby guaranteeing Champions League football next season.

Not just that, Lampard picked up wins against all of the best managers in the league in his first-ever season. Winning the FA Cup against Arsenal would’ve been the icing on the cake for the London club’s campaign, but with Champions League football already in the bag, asking for anything more, especially given the circumstances, would be unrealistic and perhaps a tad greedy as well.

Nikhil has been an avid Chelsea fan for as long as the concept of time has existed and rumours say that he even bleeds blue. Having lived in the UK for 3 years, Nikhil is said to have an excellent understanding of the atmosphere surrounding the English game. His role model is the greatest manager of all time - Jose Mourinho.