Chelsea 2023/24 season review and player ratings: Palmer 10, Jackson 7, Mudryk 5

Blues endure another turbulent season as gradual progress on the pitch is offset by the departure of manager Pochettino

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Season synopsis

Premier League final position: Sixth

FA Cup: Semi-finals; beaten 1-0 by Manchester City

League Cup: Final; beaten 1-0 by Liverpool after extra-time

As has become the norm in recent years, it was another turbulent season at Stamford Bridge, which ultimately ended on a comparative high on the pitch, before more boardroom-inflicted instability. A new manager and more big-money players arrived last summer, but the issues of a lack of experience and leaders persisted.

Mauricio Pochettino struggled to get fans on his side during the early months as Chelsea stuttered and showed few signs of progress from the catastrophic 2022/23 campaign. Injuries were a significant problem too, with the new boss denied the services of several key players – chief among them captain Reece James and new forward Christopher Nkunku – for much of the season.

It reached a nadir on Christmas Eve when Chelsea were thrashed 4-2 at home by Wolves, and Pochettino has recently admitted he feared the sack following that result.

But the new year signalled the start of a revival. Led by the brilliant Cole Palmer, Chelsea made two trips to Wembley for the League Cup final and FA Cup semi-finals, while belatedly climbing the table with a string of impressive results and performances.

In the past month, it all finally clicked as Chelsea won five matches in a row to secure a place in Europe. Whether that will be in the Europa League or Conference League will depend on the outcome of Saturday's FA Cup final between Manchester City and Manchester United.

Yet, any hopes of building on an encouraging finale were dashed when it was announced Tuesday evening Pochettino had left the club by mutual consent. Once again, Chelsea are back in the market for another new manager. Just when some much-needed and overdue stability was being formed, it's back to the drawing board for this chaotic club.

Best performance of the season

Chelsea 5 West Ham 0: Chelsea's season threatened to completely unravel after getting thrashed 5-0 at Arsenal before trailing 2-0 at half time to Aston Villa. A rousing second-half fightback at Villa Park set the initial foundations, and the Blues carried that momentum into a high-quality 2-0 win over Tottenham.

That set up a total destruction of West Ham at Stamford Bridge three days later. At the time rivals for a possible European place, Chelsea made a mockery of the comparison by destroying the Hammers. They were ahead 3-0 by the break following goals from Palmer, Conor Gallagher, and Noni Madueke, with a Nicolas Jackson double in the second half completing the rout.

Beyond the scoreline, it was the most complete performance of the season as Chelsea dominated every area of the pitch while outclassing and outfighting a good West Ham side.

Worst Performance of the season

Arsenal 5 Chelsea 0: There are several candidates. The aforementioned 4-2 home loss against Wolves was poor as were the 2-2 draws against relegated Burnley and Sheffield United, having led twice. The League Cup final defeat to a depleted Liverpool side half comprising Academy youngsters was an opportunity missed.

Yet, all pale in comparison to the shocking defeat and performance at rivals Arsenal at the end of April. In the absence of main man Palmer, Chelsea folded within four minutes when Leandro Trossard opened the scoring. Mercifully, Arsenal couldn't add to their lead in the first half despite countless chances.

The Gunners weren't so forgiving after the interval, though, as Ben White and former Blue Kai Havertz helped themselves to two goals each in a rampaging 13-minute spell.

It was not only an awful performance by Chelsea but provided a sobering reminder of how much work lay ahead to once again become legitimate title contenders alongside the likes of Arsenal and Manchester City.

Thriller of the season

Chelsea 4 Manchester United 3: Again, several options for this. For all Chelsea's faults, they can't be accused of being boring. The compelling 4-4 draw with City showed glimpses of what might be, while the 4-1 win at nine-man Tottenham was just a bit bonkers.

But the dramatic late 4-3 win over United at Stamford Bridge tops the lot. Chelsea looked to be cruising at 2-0 following Gallagher's opener and a Palmer penalty, but defensive frailties saw United level through Alejandro Garnacho and Bruno Fernandes.

Garnacho struck again in the second half and United appeared set for an impressive comeback win as the clock ticked deep into injury time. Then it happened. Substitute Noni Madueke drew a penalty after a challenge from Diogo Dalot and Palmer calmly slotted home his second spot kick of the match.

A mere 80 seconds later, Chelsea had snatched an unlikely victory when Palmer was left unmarked on the edge of the area from Enzo Fernandez's corner, the England winger's shot taking a kind deflection to seal the win and trigger bedlam inside the stadium.

Player of the season

Cole Palmer: By a landslide. Partly because many of his teammates, Conor Gallagher and Malo Gusto aside, struggled to find a consistently good level all season, but mainly because he was absolutely outstanding. The 42 goal involvements – 27 goals, 15 assists – says much about the scale of his impact since joining from City last summer. Even on the rare occasions he wasn't contributing goals, Palmer was still Chelsea's main man. A special, special talent.

Goal of the season

Moises Caicedo v Bournemouth: After some early-season profligacy, Chelsea had no problem scoring goals, accumulating 103 across competitions. But it is the penultimate goal of the season that takes the award.

After a poor clearance from Bournemouth goalkeeper Neto, who was a good 40 yards away from his goal, the ball landed at the feet of Caicedo. The Ecuadorian midfielder took a touch to set himself, then floated a perfectly struck shot from 50 yards, sending the ball sailing into the net.

Updated: May 22, 2024, 10:23 AM