It’s every football fan’s dream to watch their team compete in Europe. It’s a chance for the club to showcase their talent on a much larger stage. However, for Chelsea fans, continental football is the bare minimum, with the Blues expected to contend for major European honours each and every season.
That’s what makes this season so strange for the Stamford Bridge faithful. Following a disastrous campaign last season, Mauricio Pochettino’s men solely have domestic silverware to focus on this term, with the Premier League, FA Cup, and League Cup the only trophies available. But when was the last time this was the case?
The mid-2010s were a strange old time at the Bridge. In 2013, Jose Mourinho returned home and immediately led the club back to the promised land, winning the Premier League in his second season at the helm. As ever though, third-season syndrome struck for the Special One, and the club embarked upon a disastrous defence of their English top-flight crown, finishing way down in tenth place. The Portuguese manager was promptly dismissed and Italian boss Antonio Conte had a Europe-less season to embark upon in 2016/17.
As is the case with Pochettino this season, the incoming manager had a chance to focus solely on domestic honours. Despite that, Bwin predictions for the Premier League this term look ominous for the Blues, and a poor start has seen them become whopping 200/1 outsiders for glory. A similarly disappointing start wasn’t the case for Conte.
The Blues were on a roll immediately, and they seemed invincible from the get-go. They won their first three games on the bounce and even back-to-back defeats against Liverpool and Arsenal couldn’t derail them. They would reel off 13 victories in a row between October and the end of December, giving them a stranglehold on the title that they wouldn’t let go of. The Blues ended up winning the league and finishing seven points clear of second place Tottenham Hotspur. Oh, what Pochettino would do for a similarly successful first term in charge.
Exactly two decades before Conte’s arrival, Chelsea was also about to embark on a transitional campaign. They had just appointed a new manager, Ruud Gullit, and had a team in the midst of a rebuild. The iconic Dutchman successfully stamped his authority on his new team however, securing a sixth-place finish and a spot in the following year’s UEFA Cup. But despite that, the Blues were still left watching as other Premier League teams competed for continental honours.
The year before Gullit arrived, Chelsea also didn’t qualify for any European competition. The year before, the Blues finished 11th in the Premier League – their lowest finish in five years. In 1995/96, they could only manage 11th place once more, paving the way for Gullit’s appointment one month after the season ended. It was a season filled with inconsistency and lack of form.
The Blues couldn’t find their footing in the league and couldn’t manage to qualify for any European competition. Despite that, they reached the semi-final of the FA Cup, where they lost to their rivals, Manchester United, with would-be manager Gullit getting himself on the scoresheet.