Antonio Conte’s men haven’t been able to repeat the title-winning form of last season, but still find themselves pretty well-placed in the Premier League and here we analyze their season so far and pick out who has been the most stand out player for the Blues and who has failed to stand up, along with the prediction for what could be waiting for them in the second-half of the term;
The Season So Far…
It was never going to be easy for the West Londoners to defend their Premier League crown, given that they were going to be involved in Europe this season, unlike the last time. And their approach to the transfer window in the summer was another reason why things were going to be hard for the Blues.
The club lost out on a number of priority targets and the manager has never let go of a chance to remind the club hierarchy that the squad wasn’t well-equipped to compete on multiple fronts. And the fact that they had to face three of the last season’s top seven teams before September when star player Eden Hazard was out injured, compounded their difficulties to some extent as well.
The opening day defeat to Burnley was a major disappointment for the champions, while losses to Crystal Palace and West Ham United, when both sides were at the bottom of the table were rather unflattering. The capitulation against AS Roma in the UEFA Champions League was a stark eye-opener as well. At the same time, the wins against Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United, the comeback against Watford FC remain some highlights for the champions.
While they have been inconsistent at times, Conte’s side have done enough to stay ahead of the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal and Spurs in the third place and stand a good chance of getting into second in the coming week, considering Manchester United’s recent results. And their Champions League campaign may have been a bit of a roller-coaster, but they still managed to get through to the next round.
Eden Hazard continues to bedazzle everyone with his brilliant displays in the attack and has been Chelsea’s chief attacking threat once again this season. The Belgian wing wizard has eight goals and eight assists already across all competitions and he keeps on building on his reputation as one of the best attackers across Europe.
Summer signing Alvaro Morata too has been a great addition to the Blues. The Spaniard hasn’t taken long to get adjusted to his new surroundings and has already netted 12 times in all competitions.
But, once again, it is last season’s PFA Player of the Year, N’Golo Kante that has emerged as the best player for the Blues. The Frenchman continues to be the beating heart of the Chelsea midfield and his presence has once again been extremely key for the West Londoners, especially since they sold Nemanja Matic to Manchester United in the summer. Kante’s presence allows the likes of Hazard and Morata to flourish in the attacking third.
The relentless energy and running that he provides in the middle of the park is hard to match and the fact that he is the most important cog in the Chelsea engine room was seen during his absence in the month of October when he missed six games due to a hamstring problem. It coincided with the period when the champions lost to Palace and dropped points against Roma in Europe.
The likes of Willian and Pedro haven’t been able to perform consistently for the champions, while summer signing Tiemoue Bakayoko has also been a slight downer, following the huge expectations that he came in with. Michy Batshuayi also has struggled to make an impression, but it is Kenedy that has been the biggest disappointment of the season so far for Chelsea.
Starting off from being sent back home from the club’s preseason tour of China, after a social media meltdown, the Brazilian has failed to convince the manager of his abilities and as a result, has made just three appearances this term, all coming in the EFL Cup. And this, despite Chelsea just having Marcos Alonso as the only left-sided wing-back in their squad.
The fact that Conte has chosen to use Davide Zappacosta and Pedro ahead of the Brazilian youngster how far down the pecking order he is and is very much likely to be loaned out or sold in the summer.
January Transfer Plans
Chelsea could definitely do with signing a new left-back to ease some of the burden off the shoulders of Marcos Alonso, while a new striker is also something that Conte might look to add, to replace Michy Batshuayi, who is likely to be shipped out on loan.
Season Grade: B-
The way the season kicked off, things did not look all that great for the Blues, but they have managed to recover well and sit in a comfortable position in race for a top-four finish, having already bid goodbye to their title retention hopes.
A Round of 16 draw against Barcelona in the Champions League might not be the most favourable, but Conte’s side will make it a tough fight and can cause a surprise and knock out Lionel Messi and co. And the two domestic cup competitions represent a good chance of getting their hands on a trophy as well.