Despite Chelsea FC finishing the season without a trophy, the Blues managed a successful campaign finishing 3rd in the Barclay’s Premier League and reaching the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League. The Blues entered the season on a hopeful note with the return of manager Jose Mourinho, the manager known affectionately to some as The Special One thanks to his initial introductory press conference at Stamford Bridge in 2004.
Despite sending top young talents Thibault Courtois and Romelu Lukaku on loan to Atletico Madrid and Everton, the Blues still maintained a fine stable of players capable of helping Chelsea add to their trophy cabinet. The summer transfer window saw the Blues add a few players, young and established. Deals that directly impacted the first team included the Blues purchase of Andre Schurrle from Bayer Leverkusen and Willian and Samuel Eto’o from Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala.
Australian keeper Mark Schwarzer was also added on a free transfer following a stint at West London neighbors Fulham, and Dutch midfielder Marco van Ginkel, who left our good friends Vitesse to take on the challenge of the Barclay’s Premier League. The club also gained some young talent in Cristian Cuevas and Christian Atsu. Cuevas spent the season on loan at FC Eindhoven, while Atsu joined Vitesse, further enhancing the Eredivisie club’s reputation as our feeder club.
Chelsea started the season off well, with wins against Hull City and Aston Villa before a listless 0-0 draw against defending champions Manchester United in the 3rd week of the season, before dropping our first chance at silverware in the UEFA Super Cup, in a loss to Bayern Munich. Chelsea played increasingly well in the Premier League, always maintaining a short gap between themselves and early league leaders Arsenal, however their form in other competitions would dip, as a surprise loss to Sunderland saw Chelsea out of the League Cup in December.
The January transfer window was a busy one for the Blues, both in purchasing and selling/loaning players. For arrivals, the Blues saw the signings of highly rated youngsters Bertrand Traore and Kurt Zouma from French sides Auxerre and Saint-Etienne respectively, both young players were sent on loan with Traore joining Vitesse and Zouma returning to Saint-Etienne. Two young players who would earn first team time were also signed up.
Egyptian forward Mohamed Salah of FC Basel was signed after impressing against the Blues in the UEFA Champions League and Serbian midfielder Nemanja Matic returned to Stamford Bridge following successful seasons in Portugal at SL Benefica. Matic had gone to Benefica as part of the deal that saw Brazilian CB David Luiz join Chelsea in 2011.
The big news however, came with the players that would leave. Belgian forward Kevin De Bruyne joined Bundesliga side VfL Wolfsburg for a reported £18M, ending a transfer saga between the unhappy player and club. On January 24th the dreaded rumor became fact. Chelsea had sold two time player of the year and supporter favorite Juan Mata to the hated Manchester United for a reported fee of £37.1M. Many Chelsea fans were devastated (this author included) at the loss of our little winger who reminded many of ‘Wee’ Pat Nevin and Gianfranco Zola with his exploits on the field.
The Spanish international endeared himself to the club during his time at Stamford Bridge and scored 33 goals in 135 appearances for the Blues while winning the UEFA Champions League, Europa League and FA Cup in a Blue shirt. He went on to feature ineffectively for United, as they struggled in the league to finish 7th in the Premier League. Mata had spent most of the season on the bench, as he did not fit well into manager Mourinho’s system of defensive working midfielders.
February saw us become the first side to defeat eventual title winners Manchester City at the Etihad stadium through a Branislav Ivanovic goal, as well as Eden Hazard scoring his first hat-trick for the club at Newcastle United with 2 beautiful goals and a successfully taken penalty. The Blues finished February top of the league table on 60 points, and Chelsea facing former club legend Didier Drogba and his Turkish side Galatasaray in the UEFA Champions League knockout stages.
March and April saw both highs and lows for the Blues, with convincing wins in London Derbies against Tottenham and Arsenal (4-0 and 6-0 respectively) as well as dropping crucial points that would ultimately decide the title race against Sunderland and Crystal Palace. In the Champions League Chelsea once again overcame a 3-1 away loss in a knockout round, this time against Paris St-Germain to advance to the semi-finals, where we would eventually lose to Atletico Madrid in the 2nd leg at home despite going ahead early from a Fernando Torres goal. May saw us officially end our title hopes with a draw against Norwich City, before ending the season on a positive note with a 2-1 win away to Cardiff.
Despite the lack of trophies, the manager and club hierarchy consider the 2013/14 a success. We were never out of contention in the league or Champions league until the very end, and the summer addition of new players (including tje soon to be former Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa) will almost surely see Chelsea being a front runner for the 2014/15 season.
My votes for end of season awards:
Player of the Year: Eden Hazard
Honorable Mentions: Gary Cahill, Cesar Azpilicueta
Goal of the Season:
Eden Hazard v Newcastle: For his second goal of the day, Hazard treated the away fans to a piece of brilliance. Following a great build up by Willian, Hazard executed a brilliant give and go with Samuel Eto’ and fired the ball into the corner of the net.
(Start at 1:07)
Honorable Mentions: Lewis Baker v Arsenal (Under 21′s)
Oscar v Stoke (Free Kick), Lampard v Hull City (Free Kick)
Follow us on Twitter at @PrideOLondon
Like us on Facebook at The Pride of London