Charlie Ghagan on a season that promised so much, but by Chelsea's own high standards, delivered very little...
So much for those six-pointers. History shows us that the team who wins the Premier League's top-four mini-league usually take the trophy – and Chelsea stormed it this season, winning five, drawing one and losing none of their games against Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal. So despite Jose Mourinho's insistence that his "little horses" were not quite ready for a title charge, when he casts his eye over the final table, he'll know this was a big missed opportunity.
Mourinho's men mastered the art of soaking up pressure before pouncing on the slightest mistake to blitz opponents on the counter – as they did to such great effect at the Etihad and Anfield – but found themselves scratching their heads against lesser sides who employed similar tactics. After a costly defeat to Aston Villa in March, further losses to Crystal Palace and Sunderland proved fatal to their title hopes.
So no gongs this year, but that's not to say Chelsea haven't progressed: the Blues' points total is their highest since 2010, while their watertight defence, along with the big-game bravado instilled by the boss, bodes well for next term – as long as they can fix their striker quandary over the summer. Samuel Eto'o was the pick of the frontmen this season but neither he, Fernando Torres or Demba Ba came close to finding the net with any real consistency, with none hitting double figures in the league.
Would they have taken this in August?
No. While Mourinho was under no immediate pressure to reclaim the league title upon his return, the club has come to expect at least one major trophy a season – only twice in nine campaigns have they failed to do so (2007-08 and 2010-11). Heck, even his vilified predecessor Rafa Benitez managed it.
Would they have taken this in January?
No. The Blues were in rampant form heading into the new year, and knocked Arsenal off the top of the table after winning at Hull on January 11. A title charge looked most definitely on.
The 6-0 annihilation of Arsenal to wreck Arsene Wenger's 1,000th game in charge was relished by all at the Bridge, but for sheer elation, it doesn't come close to the Champions League quarter-final comeback against PSG, when Demba Ba's scrambled shinner three minutes from time had Mourinho reliving his manic touchline run from 10 years ago.
The 82nd-minute penalty conceded to bottom of the table Sunderland on April 19, after Cesar Azpilicueta tripped Jozy Altidore. It was the moment Chelsea lost pace in the title race, Mourinho's assistant Rui Faria lost his head with the officials (resulting in a six-game ban), and Mourinho lost his 77-game unbeaten league run at Stamford Bridge. And the spot-kick was converted by Chelsea reject Fabio Borini. Ouch.
Hero of the season
Eden Hazard. He may have fallen out with Mourinho on a couple of occasions, but the PFA Young Player of the Year provided some much-needed unpredictability on the pitch, opening up opposition defences with his weaving runs and tidy passing. The Belgian regularly bailed out Chelsea's misfiring strikers, too, finishing the season as top scorer, with 16 in all competitions, and providing the most assists.
Villain of the season
Ramires. His commitment can't be questioned, but for all his endless running, the Brazilian's reckless tackling and flapping arms have made him a liability in recent months. In all competitions he picked up 13 yellows and two reds, and was banned for a further four matches for striking Sunderland's Sebastian Larsson in an off-the-ball incident.
The season in microcosm
The goalless draw against Norwich on May 4. In a must-win fixture, Chelsea had 71% possession, but their attack simply ran out of ideas against a side who were happy to sit back and absorb the pressure. "Our strikers are not the types who [in tight spaces] can get the ball and dribble around, can see the space and make the shot," shrugged Mourinho after the match.
B. Capable of improvement, which will be not so much expected as demanded next term by an impatient house master.