If the season finished today: Ranking Frank and the boys (Part Three)

No rival fan can accuse Chelsea of being a boring watch this season and that is largely down to our possession based, free-flowing brand of football which has incorporated young, hungry players eager to make their mark on the league. In the third part of my review of our 2019/20 season so far, I will be focussing on our forwards. Although 51 goals struck in just 29 Premier League games so far this season makes the Blues the fourth most prolific outfit in the league, the reality is that that figure could have been much greater had our forwards been more decisive in front of goal. Nobody can fault the cascade of chances produced by the team and if there is one area that must be worked on for next season, becoming more clinical from open play must be up there. Various reports have linked us to number 9s of the calibre of Timo Werner and Lautaro Martínez, as well as goal scoring wingers like Jadon Sancho, and even if it turns out ultimately that there’s little or no truth in these rumours they still point to where our struggles have been: sticking the ball in the back of the net. I will rank players as subjectively as I can out of 10 in this article, but please bear in mind that we all have different opinions and I am just trying to give a view reflective of the majority of the fan base. So for one last time let’s dive in…


Wingers:

In no other position do Chelsea have such a mixed group of players; two huge, young talents tied down to long term deals partnered with two ageing players free to leave in the summer. This season was meant to be the passing of the torch from Willian and Pedro to their younger team mates Pulisic and Hudson-Odoi. Injury to both of our exciting youngsters hasn’t allowed that to happen, however, although they’ve been brilliant in their limited game time. Lampard has been forced to make Willian the prominent figure on the right wing, often accompanied by Mount or recently Pedro on the left.
Willian and our wingers started the season brightly as we went on a run of results which took us to third by November, but their Kryptonite has proved to be low defensive blocks coming to Stamford Bridge. Our inability to break down these lines of deep defence has been due to poor decision making, as our wide men have put in ineffective crosses time and again and too often lacked the imagination to cut inside and interchange short passes with other players to get into more dangerous positions. This has resulted in our worst home form in 34 years, with eight home defeats in all competitions. However, to say that our wingers have been ineffective all season would be harsh, after some superb performances against the big six sides (from Willian in particular).
A goal scoring winger looks to be on Lampard’s shopping list with Sancho’s name being thrown around despite him being strongly linked to Manchester United. Don’t be surprised if we enter next season with a very different set of wingers, probably without Willian and Pedro and maybe with the addition of a world class player.

Christian Pulisic: Our very own Captain America sensationally introduced himself to the Chelsea faithful with a perfect hat trick against Burnley after a difficult start to the season. Goals against Watford and Crystal Palace followed, leaving him with 5 goals and 2 assists in just 566 minutes in the league which equates to a goal or assist every 80 minutes! As Chelsea’s form slumped going into Christmas the rapid winger struggled, but still managed to clock up 2.4 dribbles per game as he continually created chances that were not converted. A tear in his abductor had left him sidelined until now, which has resulted in him appearing in just 41% of the game time available so far. We are yet to see the best from our £54 million man but from his brief time on the pitch this season we can be extremely excited about what he can achieve when fit and fully adjusted to the league next season. Still only 21, he has a massive future ahead of him.

Rating: 7/10

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Photo credit: Premier League

Willian: It looks like his seven year spell at the club is finally coming to a close as one of the most divisive figures in our recent history is out of contract in July. It has been another largely unimpressive season despite a number of crucial goals and assists; including his incredible double against Spurs away, his crucial winner against Lille away (which ultimately made the difference in us qualifying from our Champions League group) and the assist for Tammy’s late winner at Arsenal. However, five goals and five assists in the league this season from the man who inherited Hazard’s number 10 shirt is not good enough for a starting winger in a top side. 32 in the summer, the Brazilian’s best days are behind him. While he will be remembered for some stunning performances over his time in London, as well as his decision to join us despite having agreed terms with Spurs, his 70 goal contributions in 226 league games is rather less memorable. A good servant to the club and at times unplayable, Willian will leave with the respect of the fans…as long as he doesn’t join Mourinho’s side!

Rating: 6/10 (or a 10/10 for inconsistency)

Pedro: Our nimble Spanish winger also looks set to leave this summer, having played a much smaller role in our side this season than his Brazilian counterpart. A goal and an assist in 9 league appearances is not sensational, but the work rate and passion he always shows are. Called upon after being a cast away for most of the season, Pedro bought his mazy and sometimes confusing dribbling back to the Bridge for his swan song season. A born winner, one of the key men in our 2016/17 title win will be remembered fondly by fans.

Rating: 6/10

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Photo Credit: Metro

Hudson-Odoi: It is easy to forget he is somehow only 19 years old given all he’s been through so far: a potentially career ending Achilles tendon rupture, contracting COVID-19, having his soaring progress halted by Sarri and the bench. It is also perhaps easy to forget that we have a world class winger in our squad in Hudson-Odoi; his 5 goal contributions in just 770 minutes of league action is extraordinary for a man his age, let alone one coming back from a horrible injury. Capped by his country at 18 and attracting serious interest from Bayern Munich, Hudson-Odoi is a man in demand, but luckily he has committed his future to Chelsea after signing a lucrative five year deal. Having come through so many difficulties, the Londoner will go into next season ready to prove just how good he is when fully fit, and will throw himself into contention for a starting place at the Euros with England next summer. We only have a short time period to judge his season on, but what we have seen has been mostly excellent, including his first ever Premier League goal. Next season could well belong to Hudson-Odoi, watch this space…

Rating: 7/10 (very limited minutes)

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Photo Credit: Callum’s Twitter

Centre forwards:

Think back to the 2013 European Super Cup final against Champions League holders Bayern Munich (if you can remember that far back!). A 20 year old striker by the name of Romelu Lukaku stepped up to take the decisive spot kick and promptly missed. Jose Mourinho had seen enough. The big Belgian forward was sent on loan for the season at Everton before his move was made permanent the following season. As Tammy Abraham stepped up to take the crucial penalty in this year’s edition of the Super Cup final, there was a fear that history might repeat itself. Abraham, like Lukaku, missed from the spot as Liverpool won the final. Similarly to Lukaku, Abraham had proven his huge talent out on loan and had clearly earned the right to play for Chelsea. Unlike Lukaku, however, Abraham had a manager who supported and believed in him. Tammy has led the line for Chelsea this season, something Lukaku was not given the chance to do, and has rewarded his manager’s faith in him with 13 league goals. The general feel good factor around the dressing room is in stark contrast to the dark days of the back end of Mourinho’s second stint in charge. The players have a manger who loves the club and loves them too, quick to defend them from media scrutiny and always giving helpful advice to them, rather than putting them down with sniping comments (Mourinho style). Giroud was brought out of the shadows as Tammy succumbed to injury after the turn of the year, and he has performed very well, earning the respect of all the fans following his patient wait for game time. The less said about Batshuayi the better. Chances haven’t been converted at nearly a high enough rate and investment may be needed to secure a world class finisher this summer to back up Abraham, but in our current number 9 we have a man who can lead the attack in a Drogba-esque style.

Abraham: His 13 goals and 3 assists in 25 league games are an incredibly impressive return for a 22 year old making the step up from the Championship. It seemed at the start of the season that Tammy was unsure which league he was in given the rate he was scoring at: a brace against Norwich was followed up by a brace against Sheffield United and then a fantastic hat-trick against Wolves in what was arguably the most complete display by a Chelsea player this season. That impressive scoring run could not last forever, and our young forward has only found the net once in 2020. However, he has been plagued by a recurrence of niggling injuries that haven’t allowed him to play to his full potential since mid-November. The fact that he has been continually played when nowhere near fully fit during this time period is testament to how vital a part he plays in our side. We have a truly exceptional talent on our hands.

His link up play has been excellent as he has brought whoever is around him into the game effectively, most noticeably with his good mate Mason Mount. However, there is a clear fault in his game that prevents him from being in the elite bracket when it comes to centre forwards and that is the number of shots he takes per game. Currently he stands at  just 2.9 shots per game compared to Ronaldo’s 5.9 and Lewandowski’s 4.7. Tammy is currently performing as expected according to the expected goals metric, so the way for him to score more – and it sounds simple – is to take more shots. How many times have we felt like screaming after the players seemingly attempt to pass the ball into the net despite being in good shooting positions? Tammy is a culprit of over thinking things sometimes, but on his day he is an excellent finisher. He needs to keep making those same runs in behind defences and pulling the trigger when he gets the chance, rather than trying to find someone else to have a shot. All in all it has been a hugely encouraging season from a player who I hope can follow in the footsteps of his hero, Didier Drogba.

Rating: 8/10

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Photo credit: The Chelsea Chronicle

Giroud: Last season’s Europa League top scorer has come to the fore when Chelsea needed him the most. After Tammy played whilst injured for a couple of months towards the back end of last year and earlier this year he eventually had to be rested. Lampard disastrously gave Batshuayi a chance to earn a run of games, overlooking his World Cup winning Frenchman. When Giroud was finally given a chance, he grasped it. His may be one of the slowest forwards in Europe but his touch, flicks and hold up play are out of this world, and he gives Chelsea an outball option as opposed to always moving the ball out from the back (a skill the players are still adapting to). In addition to this he has linked the attack and midfield superbly. A huge goal away at Spurs, a delightful finish from the edge of the box, as well as a goal against Everton, have proven that the big man still has it. His couple of goals from five league starts firmly puts him ahead of Batshuayi in the pecking order and many fans hope he’ll stay next season, even if that is as a third choice striker, so effective has he been when given a chance.

Rating: 7/10 (if I were being biased it’d be a 10, I love Olivier)

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Photo credit: Yahoo Finance

Batshuayi: A huge goal in a vital away game for Chelsea’s hot and cold striker sounds familiar. The title sealer at West Brom in 2017, the winner in the fourth minute of added time against Atlético Madrid in the same year and now the only goal in a 1-0 win at Ajax in a crucial European tie. His season, however, must be remembered for his horrendous display against Manchester United at home. If any game encapsulated our season it was this. 61% possession and 17 shots to United’s 9, we utterly dominated proceedings only to lose 2-0. The lasting memory will be of Maguire stamping on Michy’s genitals, but the two absolute sitters the Belgian passed up after that were even more painful to watch. After the game he was dropped in favour of Giroud, a huge call from Lampard who seemed to have banished his 33 year old talisman. It was a call the young manager got right, and Batshuayi hasn’t featured since.

Rating: 5/10 (limited minutes and huge goal vs Ajax are redeeming features)

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Photo credit: sportlife.news

Thank you for sticking with me throughout this three part special, hopefully I have given you some insight into Chelsea’s strengths and weakness this season as well as cause for optimism ahead of what could be the most fulfilling era of our history. Whatever happens in the coming years we can all unite as a fan base and get behind Super Frank’s revolution, basking in the game time given out to academy graduates. Keep safe and well and keep the blue flag flying high.

Written by Daniel New

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