By Noah Tan
If I were to put a face to the rollercoaster season that Chelsea have had, it would undoubtedly bear a striking resemblance to their £47.5 million (S$89 million) striker Timo Werner.
Much like the German international, Chelsea started the season with huge expectations placed on them – they had, after all, spent close to a gazillion dollars (OK, around £213 million or S$400m) during the summer on exciting signings like Kai Havertz, Hakim Ziyech, and Werner himself.
Like Werner, who registered an assist on his debut for the Blues, Chelsea enjoyed a promising start to the campaign, which even led to their fans briefly entertaining the thought of a potential title challenge.
But it wasn’t long before things for both Chelsea and Werner started to fall apart like a badly constructed table you thought was a steal from Taobao.
The club endured a torrid time during the festive period, falling all the way to ninth in the table at one point, which ultimately led to the most ruthless Roman since Emperor Caligula – Abramovich – swinging his axe on then-manager Frank Lampard.
That period proved to be equally fallow for Werner, who went through a 14-game goal drought in the English Premier League that started in November and ended only in February.
By then, however, Abramovich had called upon Thomas Tuchel to save Chelsea’s season. The former Paris Saint-Germain manager immediately set about putting in place a more defensive structure, and began to reshape Werner’s role in the team as more of a false nine (not the Ali Dia kind, although their finishing is similar) rather than an out-and-out striker.
The fortunes of both immediately picked up. Werner established himself as a key facet of the Chelsea attack (even if it didn’t translate into actual output, with just one goal and four assists to his name after the Newcastle game), while the Stamford Bridge outfit fought their way back into the reckoning for a top-four finish, and also reached the finals of both the FA Cup and Champions League.
But just as everything was looking rosy for Chelsea, the vagaries of life and top-level football hit them in the face like an Antonio Rudiger challenge.
After losing to London rivals Arsenal at Stamford Bridge – an insult in its own right, given how poor the Gunners have been this season – in the EPL, their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League became uncertain, as Leicester and Liverpool gained the upper hand in the race for top-four. They then went on to lose the FA Cup final to the Foxes, and suddenly, the prospect of ending the season empty-handed while also missing out on Champions League qualification became very real.
The final day of the season saw Chelsea needing to beat Aston Villa in order to secure their place in the top-four. But, just like Werner in front of goal, Chelsea failed to finish the job, and lost 1-2 to a Villa side that had absolutely nothing to play for but sh*ts and giggles.
Thankfully for Tuchel’s men, Leicester Brendan Rodgers-ed their way out of the top-four as they were beaten 2-4 by Tottenham Hotspur – a team which has been so underwhelming this season that the Friends reunion special looks like a cinematic masterclass in comparison.
And so, Chelsea managed to scrape into the Champions League qualification spots, but it was hardly the sort of momentum to inspire confidence as they braced themselves for the Champions League final against rampant EPL champions Manchester City.
Surprisingly, however, Chelsea managed to overcome the odds to beat City 1-0 in the final, with the devastating midfield partnership between N’Golo and Kanté proving too much for the Citizens. And no, that is not a typo.
Just like Werner, the Champions League victory never looked convincing, and was mostly defined by hard work and selfless running. But a victory is still a victory, and Chelsea will head into the summer break on a deserved high.
For Chelsea, this season has been as wild as Werner’s shooting. And while it ultimately finished on the up for them, the question now is: what will next season bring for the club?
As of writing, Tuchel, who has about one year left on his deal, is reportedly in talks to extend his contract with Chelsea. Should he stay – and there is a high chance he will – it will provide stability and a solid platform upon which Tuchel and the club can build on.
Then again, Chelsea’s recent successes were not built on stability. Chaos and change have been the club’s secret recipe to success, with silverware seemingly always following soon after a managerial change.
The good news for Tuchel is, there is a huge amount of talent within this Chelsea squad. In fact, there is arguably too much talent, and some players, such as Tammy Abraham and Olivier Giroud, will surely leave the club in search for more regular football.
With a full pre-season to implement his playing philosophy, the full effects of the Tuchel revolution – which emphasises possession and flexibility – at Chelsea will come to the fore sooner rather than later.
But make no mistake, the pressure is already on Tuchel. With a Champions League win under his belt, expectations for him and the club are once again going to be sky high. Any sense that the London side might fail to achieve their targets next season, and it’ll be off with his head.
So, enjoy the success while you can, Tuchel. Savour every minute of your Champions League victory. Buy Kante as many packets of Nasi Lemak as he wants to keep him happy.
Because at Chelsea, you are only ever as safe as your next result.
Overall grade 2020/21: B+
This article, "Chelsea season review: Sometimes good, sometimes bad, but excellent at the end", originally appeared on Football Siao – Singapore’s craziest EPL website.