Chelsea 2021/22 Revisited: May 2022

LONDON, ENGLAND – MAY 14: Marcos Alonso, Thiago Silva, Mason Mount, Reece James, Hakim Ziyech, Antonio Rüdiger, Jorginho, Ross Barkley, N’Golo Kante of Chelsea during The FA Cup Final match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Wembley Stadium on May 14, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images)

Game 61/66: Everton vs Chelsea

At long, long last, the final month of the season was upon Chelsea, with six games remaining in that time. It would be the month that decided whether the Blues would finish in the Top Four, whether they would finish the season with a domestic trophy to add to the Super Cup and Club World Cup already won, and whether the takeover would be completed in time.

As far as the Champions League places were concerned, it seemed as though it would now just be a formality – the final five Premier League games were all against relatively inferior opponents, and just a few points were needed to ensure the qualification. The first opportunity of May to pick up some of those points came away against Everton, where the previous Chelsea manager Frank Lampard was in charge.

His side were desperately struggling to avoid the drop, which would have resulted in a huge stain on the Englishman’s managerial record, and every single game from this point onwards was effectively now a cup final for the Toffees. As such, it was no secret that the atmosphere inside Goodison Park would be at a level not often seen inside English football stadiums. In fact, the attempted intimidation began the night before, with the Blues’ team hotel being the subject of a firework display in the early hours of the morning, thanks to the mischievous work of various Everton supporters.

Not only that, but there was a huge crowd present as both teams arrived at the stadium a couple of hours before kick-off. Quite why then there was any surprise amongst Chelsea ranks at the noise generated is still something of a mystery. It was clear that the fans would do everything they could to fire their team up, but all the Blues had to do was remain focused and not rise to the bait that Everton players would inevitably attempt to dangle in front of them – after all, it was the hosts that were far more desperate for the points, and the away team were simply objectively a better side.

That said, anybody who had watched Chelsea in recent weeks were probably unsurprised by what then unfolded across the next 90 minutes. It had become an ironic nickname to refer to the team as ‘Charity FC’ due to their practically never-ending generosity at giving lower teams points, and so there were more than a few who held a strong sense of trepidation coming into this one.

It was a first half designed by Lampard and his coaching staff to frustrate their West London opponents, as Everton set up in a strong defensive formation, determined not to allow any clear opportunities at goal in the early stages, which they succeeded at. Equally, they were doing their best to rile up some of the players in neon yellow shirts, with a couple of feisty battles, including one between the captains Cesar Azpilicueta and Seamus Coleman leading to something of a brawl near the end of the first half.

Fundamentally, while the visitors may have had control of the ball, they were right where the home side wanted them to be mentally, and that was rattled. Perhaps due to that frustration, the away team came out the tunnel not fully concentrating, and as had happened so many times before this season, the Blues were punished for being half-asleep at the back.

Inside the opening minute of the second half, Azpilicueta failed to clear his lines, and Richarlison nicked the ball off the Spaniard, with Demarai Gray then poking it back into the path of the Brazilian, who slotted past Mendy, causing absolute bedlam in the home end. It was exactly what Lampard would have wanted – an early goal, allowing his side to really make the most of every foul, tackle and stoppage in play to truly irritate his former club.

Even then, it wasn’t as if Chelsea didn’t create any chances: a plethora came throughout the remaining time, but there was one Everton player in particular who stood out above his teammates, truly earning the hosts the three points. That player was Jordan Pickford, and while he has been often criticised in the past, he was immense in this one.

Just before the hour mark, Mason Mount struck against the left post, as Pickford scrambled to dive towards the effort, meaning when it cannoned back in the direction of Azpilicueta on the right of the goal, it seemed certain he would score. Somehow though, the ‘keeper ran back across his net, and kept out the Spaniard’s effort while almost his entire body was behind the goalline.

So impressive was the stop that it ended up being awarded Save of the Season – not that such an accolade made the Blues feel any better about squandering the chance. In fact, barely a minute after that award-winning save, the goalkeeper was at it again, this time using his face to deny a close range effort from Antonio Rudiger.

Truly nothing could have got past the England number one on this mammoth afternoon for the Toffees, though it certainly didn’t ease the frustration that the Blues felt as this game wore on. An almost incessant barrage of Chelsea attacks kept on coming, but not one ended in the equaliser that they were craving, and just a few days on after drawing with Manchester United in a game they really ought to have won, the Blues left the North West feeling despondent once more.

Game 61/66: Everton 1-0 Chelsea
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MAY 01: Richarlison of Everton celebrates with a flare after scoring their team's first goal during the Premier League match between Everton and Chelsea at Goodison Park on May 01, 2022 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – MAY 01: Richarlison of Everton celebrates with a flare after scoring their team’s first goal during the Premier League match between Everton and Chelsea at Goodison Park on May 01, 2022 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

Game 62/66: Chelsea vs Wolves

For only the second time since August 2021, Thomas Tuchel’s team had an entire week off to prepare for their next game, which many hoped would mean that they would be feeling ready and refreshed to face Wolverhampton Wanderers at the Bridge. In the early hours of the matchday, a statement had been released by the club, officially announcing that Todd Boehly’s consortium had been selected as the preferred bidder.

Nothing had been completed yet, but having confirmation of the takeover saga being almost complete certainly was a promising sign, after months of chaos and speculation looming large. All those previous factors were hopefully set to combine to bring the limited number of home fans in attendance at Stamford Bridge some respite, after a run of four matches on home turf in April that only resulted in three wins.

You can probably tell, therefore, where this is going, if you weren’t already aware of the result. Ruben Loftus-Cheek thought he’d got the opener, bundling in a ball at the back post from a corner, but VAR intervened and, annoying as it was at the time, rightfully ruled it out for offside. Midway through the first half, Wolves sped forward on the counter attack, and Pedro Neto had an attempt parried away by Edouard Mendy.

Leander Dendoncker had the rebound come straight towards him, and didn’t even have a goalkeeper to beat, but somehow skied it over the bar – it was a big let off for the Blues. Tuchel must have let them know as such at the break, because they came out looking far sharper, and were rewarded for their intensity when given a penalty less than 10 minutes after half time.

Lukaku refused to give up on a ball that Romain Saiss was trying to shield out for a goal kick, but then lashed out at the Belgian, sending him tumbling to the ground with a clear foul. The striker tucked away the spot kick, and he wasn’t done there either, as two minutes later he produced a fine finish from Pulisic’s through ball, slotting past Jose Sa into the bottom right corner – someone certainly wanted to impress the new owner in the stands.

At that point, everything appeared to be going to plan, and with a little over 10 minutes remaining Chelsea were still 2-0 up and controlling the ball. What could go wrong, right? Well, as it turned out, pretty much everything.

Kovacic lost possession in Wolves’ half and the gold shirts raced up the pitch, with Chiquinho finding Francisco Trincao, who then cut inside before unleashing a wonderful shot into the top corner, leaving Mendy motionless, and the visitors suddenly had a sense that they might just nick something from this one.

Yet after that goal there were precious few other chances for the away team, and after the seven minutes of added time had almost elapsed, it seemed as though the Blues might have just about gotten away with it. But even that was wishful thinking – deep into stoppage time, Chiquinho whipped a ball in from the right, which Conor Coady headed home after Mendy hesitated as to whether to claim the cross.

It was a sucker punch for the hosts and a brutal way to drop points, but the story was all too familiar in terms of squandering a lead which had appeared secure. Champions League football still remained likely, but if results kept heading in this direction then nothing was quite certain yet.

Game 62/66: Chelsea 2-2 Wolves
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 07: Conor Coady of Wolverhampton Wanderers celebrates with teammates after scoring their team's second goal during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Stamford Bridge on May 07, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Eddie Keogh/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND – MAY 07: Conor Coady of Wolverhampton Wanderers celebrates with teammates after scoring their team’s second goal during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Stamford Bridge on May 07, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Eddie Keogh/Getty Images)

Game 63/66: Leeds United vs Chelsea

Ahead of the Blues’ biggest remaining game of the season in the form of the upcoming FA Cup Final, there was a league fixture which, if they won it, would mean Chelsea were then just one point away from securing third place. It was away at Leeds United who, much like Everton at the start of the month, were battling to remain in the Premier League, and were desperate for every point possible.

Plus, there was always the added edge of this being a rivalry that hadn’t been played in many years up until this season, meaning tensions were going to be high regardless of the context of the league table. As such, most were expecting a game similar to that of the one at Goodison Park – feisty and furious, with the hosts looking to frustrate the visitors via every trick in the book.

Yet, in contrast to that general assumption, the match ended up being played out in a relatively comfortable fashion for Thomas Tuchel’s team, much to his and supporters’ relief. An opening goal to settle the nerves came in just the fourth minute, from Mason Mount, who has a history with Leeds given his part in defeating the Whites in a play-off semi final a couple of years before with Frank Lampard’s Derby County.

It was a fine finish from the England international, following a move which he himself helped to start. Having played in Reece James on the right hand side, Mount continued to charge up the pitch, before receiving the ball back from his compatriot on the edge of the box. A clean connection followed, and the power on the shot took it past Meslier as it curled into the top corner next to the goalkeeper.

The Blues remained on top, controlling the ball for long periods, and their task of holding onto the lead became even easier in the 24th minute too. Daniel James lunged in on Mateo Kovacic with a wild challenge in which both of the Welshman’s feet were in the air, leaving referee Anthony Taylor no choice but to send the winger off.

From that point on, it was effectively a training drill, as Leeds were camped back in their own box, not able to get a single shot on target in this game, as Chelsea simply peppered the opposition goal with shots. Lukaku thought he’d got the second goal when he managed to chip Meslier, having got on the end of Mount’s pass over the top, but the Belgian was ruled offside, before glancing a header inches wide a couple of minutes later too.

The second goal eventually came in the second half, when 10 minutes after the interval a slick passing move involving James, Jorginho and Mount led to Christian Pulisic stroking home a strike into the bottom corner, leaving Meslier no chance. In fairness to the striker, Lukaku did his very best to get a goal, coming close on a number of occasions, especially in the second 45 minutes.

First he turned away from Liam Cooper on the edge of the box but could only send his shot wide, and then he attempted to divert Alonso’s cross into the back of the net, only to see his effort blocked by Llorente. Finally though, in the 83rd minute, he got the goal he had deserved, receiving the ball from Ziyech in the six yard box.

It took some time for him to get the shot away as he wriggled his way through multiple defenders, but eventually did fire high into the net, capping off a routine victory in the end. It was a welcome change from the difficulty with which the Blues had been attempting to kill off games recently, and it seemed to be the ideal preparation ahead of Saturday’s mammoth Wembley match.

Game 63/66: Leeds United 0-3 Chelsea

Game 64/66: Chelsea vs Liverpool

Saturday 14th May. The FA Cup Final, at Wembley, between Chelsea and Liverpool. It was a classic: Blue vs Red, a rematch of the thriller that had been the Carabao Cup Final, in which the Merseyside-based team had pipped their London rivals to the trophy by virtue of one of the tensest penalty shootouts ever seen. Quite simply, this was massive.

Some have suggested that this competition no longer holds the prestige and value that it once did, with the Premier League and Champions League often cited as more important achievements and greater occasions. The achievement may be tough to argue with, but there is still something magical about the day of the FA Cup Final.

Whether it’s the almost overwhelming level of build-up to the game throughout the afternoon, the highlights of the dozens of finals gone by, heading all the way back to the 19th Century, or the sight of the famous trophy being brought out at the iconic venue that is Wembley Stadium, there is no denying that the competition still has the potential to produce some awe-inspiring events.

Of course, much of the narrative for this one was based around the theme of history – it was the 150th anniversary of the competition after all – but on a more recent level, there was the obvious parallel with the first domestic final of the season back in February.

Both teams had followed wildly different paths since then, with the Blues having somewhat of an existential crisis with their infamous takeover saga (which still wasn’t quite done), while the Reds had continued their hunt for an unprecedented quadruple, with a Champions League Final against Real Madrid still yet to be played. This was a chance for Chelsea to seek revenge, but it was clear that it wasn’t going to be easy, based on that previous Wembley showpiece, which had produced one of the most exciting goalless draws of all time.

Ironically enough, one of the few other candidates to rival it would come on this very fateful Saturday evening in North London. It was the first FA Cup Final in three years to have a full capacity crowd, after the previous two had either no, or a limited number of fans in attendance, with the atmosphere before kick-off only adding to the excitement.

Now, while there were obvious comparisons to be drawn between the two domestic Cup Finals, it must be said that this one probably didn’t have quite the same level of thrilling action for a neutral as the February matchup. Still, it wasn’t exactly what you would call a bore draw either – both these teams were fighting for this trophy, and were throwing everything at it.

Liverpool started the stronger of the two teams, looking extremely threatening when they went forward, and they came very close to going ahead within the first 10 minutes. Trent Alexander-Arnold found Luis Diaz running down the left wing with an audacious outside of the boot pass, and the Brazilian saw his shot saved by Edouard Mendy, with a follow-up shot from Naby Keita going wide of the post, in a big let off for the Blues.

Tuchel’s team grew into the game though, and their first major opportunity came midway through the first half, as Mason Mount found Christian Pulisic in the middle of the penalty area, and the winger watched on in frustration as he swept his shot wide of the post. A few minutes later the American was involved again, as he played in Marcos Alonso on the left hand side, who found himself one-on-one with Alisson in the Liverpool goal.

It was the ‘keeper who came out on top in that battle though, with the wing back’s touch too heavy, allowing Alisson to get out and block the shot. Then, in a sign of how equal this game was, the momentum returned to be in favour of Jurgen Klopp’s side once more, as they went in at half time looking more potent up front.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 14: Chelsea team react during the penalty shoot out during The FA Cup Final match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Wembley Stadium on May 14, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Naomi Baker - The FA/The FA via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND – MAY 14: Chelsea team react during the penalty shoot out during The FA Cup Final match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Wembley Stadium on May 14, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Naomi Baker – The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

A minute before the interval Andy Robertson swung a cross into Diogo Jota, who attempted a volleyed flick towards goal, and it whistled just wide of the target. It had been an intriguing first 45 minutes, but nothing could separate the teams so far. Once more the pendulum of intent swung back in the other direction, as Chelsea raced out of the traps after the interval.

They went close twice in the space of as many minutes, first as Alisson blocked Pulisic’s shot, and then when Alonso went for a goal from a free kick at a tight angle, with the ball bouncing off the crossbar, inches from an opener for the Blues. Meanwhile, Diaz had another few long-range shots go inches wide of the woodwork, leaving Mendy motionless on multiple occasions, while Robertson blew a huge chance late on, somehow hitting a volley against the post after being found by a cross from James Milner of all people.

Both sides had had their chances, but as the clock ticked ever closer to full time, a terrifyingly familiar sense of deja vu began to envelope both fanbases, and it was once more extra time at Wembley between the two teams. In a way, it felt almost pointless to play the extra 30 minutes; after all, the game was evidently being played out in an eerily similar format to that of the final a few months before, meaning it was clear to most how this one would be decided.

Such a conclusion was confirmed when, after the additional half an hour, the game remained goalless, and it was to be yet another penalty shootout to determine who would climb the famous Wembley steps to lift a trophy. And this is where it gets excruciatingly painful for Blues’ supporters.

They had already seen their team blow one shootout against the Reds – doing so a second time was virtually unthinkable. Unlike in that one, it wasn’t perfect penalties until the goalkeepers though, with Cesar Azpilicueta missing Chelsea’s second penalty, giving Liverpool the advantage after two spot kicks each.

All of the next four takers carried out their responsibility, meaning in the fifth lot of players the Reds had a chance to win it. Most Chelsea fans were heading for the exits already, convinced that they’d seen enough already, and it would be yet another shootout defeat. They may eventually have been proven correct, but Sadio Mane’s effort from 12 yards was saved by his compatriot in Mendy, and after Hakim Ziyech held his nerve, the scores were level.

It is at this point that it is vital to recount quite how the mood felt at that point. Of course, it was now set to be sudden death, but there was a genuine sense of optimism in the Blues side of Wembley that maybe, just maybe, fortunes were about to change, and that pendulum of momentum which had dominated this final was to swing one final time and remain in Chelsea’s favour.

Konstantinos Tsimikas did well, carrying out his duties, and next up was Mason Mount. It felt like a cruel twist of fate – one of the club’s very best players this season stepping up in such a high pressure moment, but such is the way these things turn out. The midfielder placed his penalty at the perfect height for Alisson, and everything then seemed to slow down.

A save from the goalkeeper, hands on heads for the players in yellow shirts, fans almost bewildered by what they had just experienced exiting the stadium. It felt at that moment that all the emotions of the past few months – the uncertainty around the takeover, the gut-wrenching defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League and now this, a second penalty shootout loss to Liverpool in a final at Wembley – spilled out in one giant heap of pure despondency.

There were all the statistics and records mentioned after the game, but the one which stood out the most was how Chelsea had made unwanted history by becoming the first ever team to lose three straight FA Cup Finals – on the 150th anniversary of the competition no less too. Yet, looking back now, there was also a far kinder, and perhaps better way of looking at what had taken place.

Emotions often blur context, but for Chelsea to have faced Liverpool – who don’t forget, were labelled by many pundits as ‘one of the greatest teams ever’ – four times across this campaign, and not been beaten in open play once by the Reds is a huge achievement, considering the supposed mountain of difference between the two sides.

There was certainly cause to be optimistic, but in truth the mood at full time was not focused on the future. Instead, it was a crushing reflection on the past, and a sense of utter despair when remembering how the Blues had come so close to a trophy not just once but twice, leaving with nothing on both occasions.

People tried to find the words to explain what had gone wrong, or how they felt, offering up various points of view in the heat of the moment after the game, but really, at the end of the day, it became clear that there simply wasn’t anything to say at all.

Game 64/66: Chelsea 0-0 Liverpool
Liverpool win 6-5 on penalties

Game 65/66: Chelsea vs Leicester City

To be perfectly honest, the thought of having two more games in this seemingly never-ending season was a hellish one immediately after the Cup Final, but as the after effects wore off, it came to be seen more positively – a chance, if you will, to end on a high.

As mentioned, realistically all the Blues needed to secure third place was one point from their final two matches, owing to their far superior goal difference over the teams below them in Tottenham and Arsenal. The first chance to get that point came on the Thursday night of the penultimate match week of the Premier League season, and it was a home game against Leicester City.

It’s fair to say that this one won’t be filed away in the archives as a classic, but neither was it too boring to erase from all memory either. If anything, it was almost the perfect microcosm of the Blues’ entire campaign, effectively consisting of Chelsea having a plethora of opportunities, but wasting most of them, while their opponents had very few but managed to be clinical enough to prevent Tuchel’s team from getting three points they probably should have picked up.

In fact, Leicester’s singular shot on target came just six minutes in, after a move starting with Kasper Schmeichel in the Foxes’ goal. He hit a long ball out to the right wing for Timothy Castagne to run onto, with his cut back being deflected into the path of James Maddison on the edge of the box, who took a touch before firing a curling strike past Edouard Mendy, giving the visitors the lead.

A familiar pattern at Stamford Bridge then set into motion, as the Blues spent most of the rest of the game trying to find a way back into the match. Trevoh Chalobah tried what was fast becoming his version of the Antonio Rudiger popshot, taking aim from distance on the right hand side of the penalty area, and it forced Schmeichel into his first big save.

Romelu Lukaku looked certain to score when he was played in by former Fox N’Golo Kante, but a perfectly-timed challenge from Daniel Amartey prevented his shot from troubling the Leicester goalkeeper. Eventually though, the away side’s defence was broken down in the 35th minute, following a slick passing move amongst multiple Chelsea players.

After working the ball back and forth across the back line looking for an opening, Kante then took matters into his own hands, playing a pinpoint ball to Reece James. The wing back put in a wonderful cross towards the back post, where Marcos Alonso avenged for his defensive malfeasance during the Leicester goal, by striking an excellent volley past Schmeichel to level things up.

Perhaps simply because many players lacked motivation after the Cup Final defeat, or because they knew a point was enough, the second half was one of the sparsest of action seen in any Chelsea game this season.

Just one clear opportunity presented itself, though it was a very big one, as Lukaku squared across the penalty area to find Christian Pulisic, who had a practically open goal to aim for, but the winger somehow sent the ball wide, getting too little contact on it.

As mentioned, while this was somewhat the story of the Blues’ season, by this point there were far less critics pouncing on the display, mainly because everybody felt simply drained by the marathon which had led up to this point.

It ended up being a 1-1 draw which did secure third place, meaning the final matchday would effectively be a dead rubber, in front of a half-full Stamford Bridge. That’s certainly not a sentence most would have expected just a few months before.

Game 65/66: Chelsea 1-1 Leicester City
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 19: Head Coach Thomas Tuchel of Chelsea celebrates after Marcos Alonso scores a goal to make it 1-1 during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Stamford Bridge on May 19, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Robin Jones/Getty Images )
LONDON, ENGLAND – MAY 19: Head Coach Thomas Tuchel of Chelsea celebrates after Marcos Alonso scores a goal to make it 1-1 during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Stamford Bridge on May 19, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Robin Jones/Getty Images )

Game 66/66: Chelsea vs Watford

The final day of the Premier League season was finally here, and there was still plenty to be decided right across the table, from a relegation battle, to fights for European football, and even the title race itself. In fact, eight of the ten fixtures on the final day still had some meaning behind them for at least one of the teams involved. As it happened though, one of those two without any major ramifications was that of Chelsea’s home game against Watford.

The Blues had already secured third place, while the Hornets had been relegated some time before. This was a chance for two teams to have a pleasant kickabout on a sunny Sunday afternoon, while other sides worried about where they might finish in the table. Really, the most significant aspect of this game wasn’t either of the two clubs involved, but rather than in the middle in the form of Mike Dean, who was set to referee his final ever top flight game.

Always a character, this was pretty much the closest he was going to get to a testimonial, shown in the dramatic floundering of his arms when he blew the full time whistle. As pointed out, the action was really going on elsewhere, which led to a slightly odd scenario at the Bridge, where many people were watching their phone screens more than the match in front of them, keeping a particularly keen eye on what was happening in the two places above them, where Manchester City and Liverpool were competing for the top spot.

Those looking down would’ve missed the first goal of the final day though, with Kai Havertz popping up in the 11th minute to tap home Kenedy’s low ball across the area. That came just a few minutes after the German had squandered a one-on-one chance against Daniel Bachmann, so it was a nice way to quickly make up for that miss as far as the forward was concerned.

In actual fact, Havertz could well have had a hat trick before the first half was up, running onto another smart through ball from Kenedy and smashing the ball against the crossbar. The Blues were ahead at half time though, and that was more significant than it may at first seem, because it meant Thomas Tuchel’s side had become the first ever team in Premier League history to never be behind at the break throughout the entire season. Stick that one in the trophy cabinet.

As often happens on final day encounters, the team that has already gone down actually showed some promise – much to the frustration of their supporters who were probably wondering where the quality was in the rest of the season. Roy Hodgson’s side grew back into the game, forcing a number of smart stops out of Edouard Mendy, but nothing the Senegal international couldn’t handle.

There was a show of appreciation to Antonio Rudiger in the 65th minute, as the German was substituted off in his final Chelsea appearance, and it was good to see that he did indeed receive a warm reception, in recognition of his importance to the team, especially in recent times.

There’s an argument to suggest that it might have been better keeping him on though, because in the 87th minute some poor defending from the Blues led to the visitors snatching a late equaliser via Dan Gosling, who had got on the end of a cross from Adam Masina, putting something of a dampener on this final day farewell.

The odd thing was, most people were still tracking the title race on their phones, with ironic chants in support of City having completed a remarkable comeback to deny Liverpool the title far more entertaining than any action on the pitch to most fans. Still, it would’ve been disappointing to end the campaign with a draw, so it was a relief to see that the hosts did hit back a few minutes after that goal, as injury time had just begun.

Reece James linked up with Havertz on the right hand side, before delivering the ball into the area, where Ross Barkley was waiting to head home, running off in celebration with Ben Chilwell, who had come on to great acclaim, returning to the team for the first time since his ACL injury in November.

A couple of minutes later, the result was confirmed, and it was a winning end to the season for the Blues. A lap of appreciation from the players and their families followed, once more only in front of a partly-full stadium (though the takeover would be completed around a week later).

There are plenty of metaphors to describe this campaign, but the sight of Ross Barkley scoring a 91st minute winner to beat already-relegated Watford in a dead rubber on the final day in front of a half-empty crowd somehow, despite its utter bizarreness, feels the most appropriate.

Game 66/66: Chelsea 2-1 Watford
Month Statistics:
Games Played: 6
Games Won: 2
Games Drawn: 2
Games Lost: 2

Month in three words: A Bittersweet Finish.

So that was it. The 2021/22 season for Chelsea, recapped from start to finish. It’s fair to say that it was pretty eventful. The key word, for better or for worse, that was heard time and time again was unprecedented. Unprecedented numbers of games played, an unprecedented number of consecutive defeats in FA Cup Finals and, most notably of all, unprecedented sanctions placed upon the club itself.

As mentioned at the very beginning of this series, around 45,000 words ago, this should have been the season where everything was normal again, after two years of a pandemic hindering many aspects of the game. Yet, for the Blues, there’s an argument to be made that this was the most abnormal season they’ve ever had.

Even on the pitch it was strange: how many teams can say they flew out to the United Arab Emirates in February to become Champions of the World, after all? Of course, the main headlines were on the subject of Roman Abramovich’s tenure coming to an end, and while this season may not have been the ‘perfect’ way to end his time as owner, filled with trophy after trophy, there is a sense that it summarised the nearly two decades pretty much perfectly, with the sheer number of games a reflection of the several fronts across which Thomas Tuchel’s side competed.

In truth, this season won’t go down in club folklore like the previous campaign did, with some describing this year as a ‘disappointing season’. In fairness, many moments are probably better off stashed into the archives – few will want to relive that heartbreaking defeat to Real Madrid, or the crushing penalty shootout losses to Liverpool.

But this season doesn’t deserve to be put down as a failure either. It’s easy to be pessimistic, especially in comparison to that of recent years, where major honours have become an expectation, rather than a privilege.

So let’s end this series on a note of positivity: the Blues took part in no fewer than four different finals, played in the joint-most number of games of any side in the country, lost in the Champions League to the eventual winners, had multiple long-term injuries, were one of only two teams not to have a game postponed due to Covid and still, despite it all, came out with more trophies than Tottenham Hotspur won throughout the entirety of Roman Abramovich’s 19-year incumbency.

I have so far refrained from using the first-person, but in my humble opinion, that’s not bad going.

This was the story of Chelsea’s 2021/22 season.

Season Statistics:
Games Played: 66
Games Won: 43
Games Drawn: 13
Games Lost: 10

Season in three words: Silverware, Shootouts, Sanctions.

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