It was an exciting, insightful and ultimately successful first season for Frank Lampard as Chelsea manager, one which he had to bring together academy graduates due to the transfer ban and contend with the exit of the team’s star player, Eden Hazard.
A lot of the expected learning and inconsistency was navigated through as Champions League football was secured on the final day of the season and with the possibility of silverware in the FA Cup final; who is Chelsea’s Player of the Season?
In his first season as a permanent Chelsea player, the Croatian has evolved into a key player for Lampard, utilizing the unique qualities which were shown in flashes during his loan spell. Kovačić registered 86% successful dribbles at a rate of 2.5 per game, the highest in the squad. His 77 dribbles rank seventh in the Premier League for completed take-ons and make him the only central midfielder in the top 10. He barely loses the ball, too, completing 90% of his passes in 31 league appearances (second behind only Andreas Christensen amongst players to have played 10 games).
His ball-carrying abilities are very fundamental to Lampard’s high-intensity system which aims to get the ball forward quickly. Thus, the 26-year-old was consistent in his duties every time he stepped on the pitch for Chelsea.
A famously consistent performer, Azpilicueta has defied the pre-season expectations of nature finally catching up with the tireless defender as the 30-year-old registered his most complete performances in his first season as club captain. Alongside his famous durability, the Spaniard has turned in a captain’s performance many-a-time this season with important goals against Ajax, Arsenal and Brighton alongside several assists. His best attacking season (four goals and seven assists in all competitions) since he joined Chelsea was delivered with the most tackles in the squad (86) at a rate of 2.4 per game.
Azpi has filled in at Right back, left-back, right centre-back and wingback this season whilst he has taken Reece James under his wing as Chelsea’s right fullback for the future. Azpi’s resilience and work ethic can be infectious and he has been vital since the restart with two assists in the first game against Aston Villa and the assist for Giroud’s all-important opener in the FA Cup semi-final. Knowing his winning mentality and quest for perfection, Dave would be rightly disappointed in the defensive efforts that have shipped in 54 goals this season; whilst that would look to be addressed over the summer, the Skipper can be happy with his inspirational individual efforts as one of Chelsea’s best players this season.
The American youngster was carefully eased into life as a Premier League player and then had to contend with a painful abductor injury but has been a wonderful talent every time he’s been on the pitch for Lampard’s men, showing a touch, poise, electric pace and slaloming dribbling to draw parallels with Eden Hazard, albeit with a more direct style to the Belgian.
Pulisic has registered 10 goals and10 assists in his first season in England to confirm the most prolific campaign of his career. The 20-year-old’s direct approach is evidenced by his shots per game average (2.5) being bettered only by top scorer Tammy Abraham (2.6) and dribbling rate (2.2) second only to Kovačić. Pulisic’s attitude has been a major factor behind his considerable success in his first season and can only look to improve. He particularly had the attention of the world after the restart with many scintillating displays that yielded four goals and two assists from 10 appearances, most notably the opener against City and a goal+assist cameo at Champions Liverpool. Due to the stop-start nature of his appearances, Pulisic fittingly deserves the Young Player of The Season nonetheless.
The 21-year-old made the most appearances for Chelsea this season and became the first academy player with 50 appearances in his breakthrough season. However, Mount needs to develop consistency with his goal contributions whereas his attitude, work ethic and tactical awareness never wavered. The talented midfielder did come up with big performances in many big games this season; as he scored an opportunistic second goal in the FA Cup Semifinal at Wembley and netted a marvelous freekick and assist against Wolves which confirmed a return to the Champions League.
This first season in Chelsea’s squad would have left him with many to learn from after eight goals and five assists, and for an intelligent player like Mount, you can expect more from him next season. If anything, he has shown Chelsea have a special player on their hands.
Tammy Abraham had a storming start to the season with seven goals in his first five league games. However, an expected dip in performances in his first full season as a Chelsea first-team player and a combination of injuries slowed his second half of the season. His goal scoring talent, commitment to the cause and trust from the management offer insights to many more from the 22-year-old who finished as the team’s top scorer with 15 goals and three assists.
Olivier Giroud’s contribution to Chelsea’s season cannot be understated as he showed immense professionalism and application on and off the pitch when out-of-favour during Abraham’s purple patch. A replacement couldn’t be found for the Frenchman and he stayed on after the winter transfer window to fire the Blues over the line in the top four race. The 33-year-old scored seven goals in eight starts since the restart and ends the league season with 10 goals in 23 appearances in all competitions.
Kovačić’s improvement was apparent after a season of adaptation as he was very important in the early stages of the season, his technical qualities, dribbling, and tactical awareness also helping to soften the blows of N’golo Kante’s absence. The Croatian’s consistency throughout the season, however, makes him the ideal candidate for Chelsea’s Player of The Season.