It’s been a miserable campaign for last season’s Premier League champions. Antonio Conte’s Chelsea side haven’t demonstrated the same enthusiasm, lacking the energy that saw them cruise to the 2016/17 title.
To be fair, there was a lot of uncertainty around the club at the start of the campaign. From the well-publicised falling out between Conte and Diego Costa over the summer resulting in the Spaniard’s drawn out exit, to uncertainty around the Italian’s future at the Bridge, things were far from rosy.
There seemed to be a lack of togetherness among the players and coaching staff – a familiar story over recent seasons. Their opening league game, at home to Burnley, ended in defeat. A run of eight games unbeaten did follow, including gutsy wins away at Tottenham and Atlético Madrid in the Champions League, but eventual champions Manchester City ended that run.
Things calmed from October through to December, but at the turn of the year, the ship began to rock. The summer signings were struggling for form; particularly Alvaro Morata, brought in to replace Costa. Another new recruit, Tiemoue Bakayoko, looked shot for confidence, and was in and out of the team.
The Premier League was out of sight from as early as mid-February. Chelsea would go on to lose in the league cup semi-final to London rivals Arsenal over two legs, and were also eliminated from the Champions League after a defeat at the hands of Barcelona.
But for all that’s been bad at the Bridge, there have been some highlights, mainly in the form of individuals. Germany defender Antonio Rudiger, a summer recruit from Roma, has taken to life in England with very little fuss. His no-nonsense style has seen him become one of Conte’s main men in the Chelsea defence; from the summer recruits, the 25-year-old has the most league starts, which is a real testament to his attitude.
Another performer that has been an excellent example of consistency is France midfielder N’Golo Kante. The anchor in the middle of the park has played with the same dynamism that saw him pick up Premier League winners’ medals in his two previous seasons in England. The 2016/17 Player of the Year has been simply outstanding for Chelsea this season. He will no doubt carry his form into this summer’s World Cup with France.
The Olivier Giroud transfer in the January raised some eyebrows. Fast forward a few months, and it looks like the Frenchman was made to play in this current Chelsea system. The big man has shown that he’s on the same level when it comes to cute link-up play with the likes of Eden Hazard and Willian. To date, the four goals he has scored have been of huge significance; his beautiful solo goal in the FA Cup semi-final against Southampton at Wembley is a must-see.
Despite the numerous negatives at Chelsea this season, Rudiger, Kante, and Giroud have given the Chelsea fans reasons to be hopeful with their individual contributions to the team. Let’s see if they can build on that next season, and help the Blues establish some order in their quest to take back the Premier League crown.