The Hard Tackle provides a throwback to four of the top highlights for Chelsea in 2017 and the year that was.
It’s been a whirlwind year for Chelsea football club. Winning back the Premier League title from Leicester City, losing the cup final to Arsenal and starting their title defence in the most ridiculous fashion against Burnley.
Some big names were welcomes to Stamford Bridge, while some legends had to depart. The Blues even managed to break a record along the way, setting a new one for most wins(30) by a single club in a Premier League campaign. We take look at some of the best highlights for Chelsea in the year that was.
Return To The Summit
After a terrible title defence in the 2015/16 season. Conte arrived at Cobham after having impressed the world with his exploits with Italy in the UEFA European Championships all eyes were on him to see whether he could be the man to take Chelsea right back to the top of the League.
It would be safe to say that expectations weren’t that high for his first season in England, especially after the transfer window they had. The Blues failed to get many of their main targets and they scrambled to strengthen positions until the very last day, but ultimately had what proved to be a good window.
Conte’s men started off fairly well, but it was only after a 3-0 thrashing at the hand of Arsenal and the subsequent change of formation, after which we saw the Chelsea of old. A 13 game winning streak followed and their lack of European football meant lesser injuries and fitter players.
Eden Hazard and Diego Costa were back to their very best, David Luiz looked right at home in the center of the Blues’ defence, while N’golo Kante and Nemanja Matic made up the best central midfield pairing in England, with the former winning the PFA Player Of The Year award.
The hunger that was lacking in the previous season seemed to be back and Antonio Conte, with his passionate touchline antics seemed to have won over Stamford Bridge and the dressing room. After a year of heartbreak and humiliation, the Blues won back their title from Leicester on the 12th of May, with 2 games to spare.
Headmaster Alvaro Morata
A few days after the end of the season, it was revealed that Diego Costa wasn’t in Antonio Conte’s plans for the 2017/18 season and that he was free to leave. After that, the rumour mills began working overtime, speculating on who would replace Costa as Chelsea’s number 1 striker.
Romelu Lukaku and Alvaro Morata were both heavily linked with a move to the Blues and Manchester United. At one point during the transfer window, it seemed as if Romelu Lukaku was heading back to the club that sold him to Everton three years ago.
However, on the 10th of July, Lukaku signed for Manchester United(coincidentally led by Jose Mourinho) and nine days later, Morata was officially revealed to be a Chelsea player for a reported club record free of £60 million, a full £15 million lesser than Lukaku.
It was easily one of the biggest signings of the summer and Morata had a good start to life in England, netting 12 times and assisting 4 in 31 games across all competitions most of them coming from his head. However, he suffered a loss of form midway through the season and is now out with a back injury.
The impact of his drop in form and subsequent injury has certainly been felt, and how. Chelsea are now languishing at fourth place, with the possibility of missing out on Champions League football next season growing with each passing game.
Chelsea had to bring in Olivier Giroud in the January transfer window to help ease the burden upfront, after sending away Michy Batshuayi to Borussia Dortmund and it will be interesting to see how Antonio Conte makes them play together after the Spaniard’s return from injury.
The Rise Of Andreas Christensen
Much has been said about the youth policy that Chelsea have adopted since the beginning of the Roman era, and it can it be safely said that despite having arguably the best youth academy in England, they have failed with regard to bringing in that same talent into their first team.
Andreas Christensen however, is proving to be something of anomaly. The Dane joined Chelsea’s academy back in 2012 as a 15-year-old from Brøndby IF. In the summer of 2015 after spending 3 years in the system, he was sent on a 2-year loan spell to Borussia Monchengladbach, from where he has since emerged as the best young footballing talents on the planet.
Chelsea have welcomed him back last summer and he has since broken into Antonio Conte’s 3 man defence and made a place for himself in the starting XI. With just under half of the season remaining, he has already made 27 appearances across all competitions this term.
It would be foolish to expect even half of the players that Chelsea produce every few years to regularly be inducted into the first team, given that last player from to the academy to break into the first team and feature regularly was John Terry, the fans’ desire to see academy player come through the ranks and be given a chance is understandable.
While it is too early to say if Christensen could be the heir to John Terry’s mantle at the club, he certainly has the talent to become as good, if not better than the Englishman. His very inclusion in the team sheet on a regular basis is a huge step forward for Chelsea and also an argument in favour of their much maligned ‘youth policy’.
The End Of An Era
May 21st 2017 was a significant day in the history of Chelsea FC. A 36-year-old John Terry, arguably the greatest player in the history of the club led his side out onto the Stamford Bridge pitch for what was the final time, bringing an end to a spectacular 22 years at the club.
The former English international joined the Blues as a 14-year-old and came through the ranks of the academy before making his debut in October 1998. A brief loan spell at Nottingham Forest followed, after which he returned to Chelsea and there was no looking back after that.
He soon became a mainstay in the Chelsea first team and was later named captain in 2004, a title he would hold till his very last day as a player at the club. In that time, he has led the Blues to 16 major titles, making him the most successful captain during the greatest period in the club’s history.
What made his captaincy and success even more significant is that he was the last player to come through their youth system, break into and hold onto a place in the first team for more than a season. It is a feat that no academy player has since managed to repeat in the Roman Abramovich era.
In the 26th minute of Chelsea’s final match of the 2016/17 season, the game was momentarily stopped to allow the Chelsea players to give the Englishman a guard of honour. Stamford Bridge was on its feet to applaud their long serving captain, for one final time.
It was fitting end to what was can safely be described as a legendary Chelsea career after 22 years, 17 trophies and 717 total appearances. In a larger aspect, his retirement also brings an end to the old guard at Stamford Bridge. A spine comprising of other legendary figures such a Didier Drogba, Petr Cech, Frank Lampard.
The former England captain was the last of those players to leave, essentially bringing the curtains down on what was a historic two decades for the club. While Chelsea’s future is largely uncertain, it can be safely said that John Terry has certainly left his beloved club in a far better state than he found it.