The weekend kicked off with an FA Cup fifth round tie: Chelsea vs Hull City, Premier League top four contenders v Championship strugglers.

Hull were twenty-first of the twenty-four teams in the Sky Bet Championship as at the start of play, a full thirty-seven places below Chelsea, who were fourth in the EPL.

However the visitors were in slightly better form than their hosts, albeit against weaker opposition. They’d won two and drawn one of their last five games in all competitions, including a 2 – 1 win over Nottingham Forest in the previous round of the FA Cup.

Chelsea were going through a pretty difficult patch, at least for a club their size. They’d lost to Arsenal, Bournemouth and Watford in their last five games. They did beat Newcastle United 3 – 0 in the FA Cup, and West Brom by the same scoreline in the league, but it was still a bad run of results for them. […]

The great thing about rotation, when it’s done properly, it gives players with a point to prove their long-awaited chance… to prove their point. All five goals were scored by Chelsea players that have spent more time on the bench this season than on the pitch – and they showed today they’re more than just backups.

And maybe it was the quality of the opposition, but Chelsea also showed vastly improved finishing compared with their previous games. They had a 42% conversion rate today versus 13% against Southampton, 0% v Everton and 25% v Brighton & Hove Albion. It helped to avoid shooting straight at the keeper maybe.

The most important stat though: Manchester United drew with Southampton after Romelu Lukaku was stretchered off injured, so Chelsea ended 2017 second in the league! Yeah it’s just halfway through and City are too far ahead, but it’s not bad for a transitional season. At least so far. Well done to Antonio Conte, the players and the board.

And Happy New Year everyone! […]