Chelsea's 2016-17 season will be an atypical one with the club missing out on Champions League football for the first time in fourteen seasons and European football of any sort for the first time in two decades. The last time Chelsea were without any European commitments, be that Champions League, Europa League, UEFA Cup, or Cup Winners' Cup was 1996-97. Incidentally, the year prior, 1995-96, was the last time Chelsea finished lower than sixth in the Premier League, though we at least should better that season's 11th place.
That's scant consolation at the end of a terrible season. And it won't truly get better until next season rolls around and we start work on repairing the damage. As we've seen with other teams, notably Liverpool in 2013-14 or even Leicester City this season, the lack of European football (and the extra stresses in terms of travel and injuries that means) can be helpful in putting together an impressive league campaign. (Just don't let it slip!)
In an interview to German outlet SPORT1, midfielder Cesc Fàbregas expressed his desire to do just that with new boss Antonio Conte at the helm.
"It is a disappointing season. It will be the first time in years I won't play Champions League. We must come back stronger. I hope that we can compete for the title in England next year."
"In Antonio Conte there will be a new manager. He has proven that he can work successfully, especially at Juventus he had a strong time. We want to attack [next season]. Liverpool can achieve something with [Jurgen] Klopp, and Manchester City will get a strong manager in Pep Guardiola."
It won't be an easy task of course. The Premier League is set to be even more competitive next season, with even more money pouring into all clubs from the new TV deal, and the arrival of Pep Guardiola at Manchester City and probably José Mourinho at Manchester United. And Klopp at Liverpool. And the young upstarts at Spurs. And Arsenal in fourth.
Still, with Chelsea's weekdays mostly free - unlike our title rivals in the Premier League - and under the guidance of a brand new manager as well, hopefully the Blues can at the very least return to the Champions League.