Chelsea have had a pleasantly surprising EPL season as they're currently fourth on the league table. The Blues' faithful were not expecting a top-four finish ahead of the start of the season, to say the least. There were many reasons for this bleak outlook ahead of the EPL season. The reasons vary from the transfer registration ban in the summer of 2019 to selling their best player in Eden Hazard to Real Madrid to hiring a manager in Frank Lampard who was about to embark on his first top-flight season in management.
This was also the first EPL season in which Chelsea have been a favourite among neutrals. So, let's have a look at how Chelsea's season has panned out before the EPL restart.
Youth Revolution at the Bridge
If there's one buzz phrase to sum-up Chelsea's EPL season, it would be "youth revolution". There's no fallacy in this statement at all because this season has seen Lampard hand out first-team debuts to as many as 9 players. Of these 9 players, as many as 3 players have cemented themselves as first-team regulars. The players who made their first-team debuts are Mason Mount, Fikayo Tomori, Reece James, Tariq Lamptey, Marc Guehi, Ian Maatsen, Billy Gilmour, Faustino Anjorin and Armando Broja. If you further this to a broader term of academy graduates to appear regularly, it increases to 12 with Tammy Abraham, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Andreas Christensen included in the already mentioned list.
Lampard has not just given debuts for the sake of it but has given these players substantial EPL minutes on the pitch. Chelsea have this season given themselves a clear idea of which positions to strengthen at in the transfer window and will be encouraged by the maturity shown by the youth. The club will be hoping this continues after the EPL restart.
Defensive frailties have held back Chelsea's EPL season
Chelsea have been plagued by defensive problems throughout this EPL season. They have conceded 39 goals in 29 games which amounts to an average of 1.34 goals conceded per game. For Chelsea to be considered as EPL title contenders, they need to tighten up their defence and do it quickly.
If you have a look at the issues plaguing the defence, one of the major issues is the nightmare of a season Kepa Arrizabalaga has had between the posts. He, at one point, had a save percentage of 53.6 per cent, which ranked last among EPL goalkeepers in this metric. What's not helped matters for him is the constant chopping and changing of the defence in front of him with captain Cesar Azpilicueta the only constant.
This constant flux in the defence has been a result of injury issues plaguing different players at different points. Chelsea would have to improve on this after the EPL restart.
Poor home form
Chelsea have lost five out of 15 EPL home games this season, which ranks them eighth in the table for home points. Chelsea have lost games they should have won, against the likes of West Ham United, Southampton and Bournemouth. These three games have a common underlying theme to them.
All three teams sat back, soaked up the pressure and hit Chelsea on the counter. One factor which has plagued Chelsea in these games is the lack of clinical finishing when a chance arises, which they've had plenty of. They have also looked suspect on the counter-attack from such scenarios. So, Chelsea will be looking to improve their finishing once the EPL restarts.
The possible return of players from injury after EPL restart
Chelsea have had injuries plague them at different points this season. At first, they were suffering injuries in defence but, that has somehow impacted the midfield and attack as the season wore on. Before the COVID-19 lockdown was imposed, Chelsea had Abraham (ankle), Christian Pulisic (adductor), Hudson-Odoi (hamstring), Mateo Kovacic (Achilles tendon) and N'Golo Kante (muscle problem) on the treatment table. This lockdown came at the right time and allowed these players to fully recover.
But, it has also seen some downsides. Kante has revealed that he is not preprared to return to training amidst fears of the virus. This is also given that the Frenchman comes from a family who have had respiratory issues. On the other hand, Hudson-Odoi's immediate future isn't clear as well as he was involved in a court case for alleged sexual assault. This could be crucial as Chelsea head into the EPL restart looking to cement their place in the top four.