Chelsea squad grades for 2021 as Rudiger gets an A+ but Ziyech struggles

Chelsea fans won't forget 2021 in a hurry after Thomas Tuchel led the club to Champions League glory.

They may have ended the year with a bit of a wobble, but the past 12 months have seen the Blues come on in leaps and bounds, establishing themselves as genuine title contenders for the first time since 2017.

When Frank Lampard was given his marching orders following a run of just two wins in eight league matches back in January, the mood around Stamford Bridge was gloomy.

Their big summer signings hadn't hit the ground running and the team looked a million miles away from Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp's league-leading juggernauts.

But that all changed, quite literally overnight.

Tuchel came in and immediately shored up Chelsea's leaky back-line – conceding just two goals in his first 14 matches.

A switch in formation turned the Blues into one of the hardest teams to beat on the planet, but also brought the very best out of the likes of Antonio Rudiger and N'Golo Kante – who had struggled to hit top form under Lampard.

Victories over Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid quickly followed, as did three wins over Manchester City – including one in the Champions League final.

Tuchel's side were sweeping all before them, and after adding Romelu Lukaku to the mix in the summer, the stage was set for an all-out assault on the Premier League throne.

Things got off to a bright start – with victories over Arsenal, Spurs and Villarreal in the Super Cup, as well as a hard-fought draw at Liverpool after going down to 10 men – but Chelsea have struggled to really hit top gear since the opening weeks of the campaign.

Maybe winning while not being at your best is indicative of title-winners, but if December is anything to go by there're still a few creases to be ironed out.

Which Chelsea player has improved the most in 2021? Let us know what you think in the comments section below…

Four wins from eight games, and none of them particularly convincing, has left Chelsea trailing in the title race, but yesterday's return of Lukaku – who hadn't started a league match since mid-October – will help the club no end.

In spite of the last few weeks, where Chelsea were at the start of 2021 compared to where they've ended it is night and day.

The club's forwards may have struggled for consistency and form, but every other area of the pitch has undergone exponential improvement – though the less said about Saul Niguez's loan move the better!

Edouard Mendy has risen from unknown to undroppable, Thiago Silva is a 37-year-old playing like a 27-year-old, and Jorginho was voted the third-best player on the planet a few weeks ago.

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Mason Mount has taken his game to another level while Reece James and Ben Chilwell have shone as inverted wing-backs.

Can they push on and win the title? We'll have to wait and see, but one thing's for sure – 2021 will live long in the memory of Chelsea Football Club.

Here are the 2021 grades for the entire Chelsea squad:

Edouard Mendy – A+

Kepa Arrizabalaga – B

Reece James – A

Cesar Azpilicueta – B

Trevoh Chalobah – B

Andreas Christensen – B

Thiago Silva – A

Antonio Rudiger – A+

Malang Sarr – C

Ben Chilwell – B

Marcos Alonso – D

Jorginho – A+

N'Golo Kante – A

Mateo Kovacic – B

Saul Niguez – F

Ruben Loftus-Cheek – C

Ross Barkley – D

Mason Mount – A

Hakim Ziyech – C

Callum Hudson-Odoi – C

Kai Havertz – C

Christian Pulisic – C

Timo Werner – D

Romelu Lukaku – B

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