Chelsea bringing vintage defense back into style
These are heady days at Stamford Bridge, about as heady as days can be without Chelsea actually topping the league. Morale is high, confidence is oozing out of every facet of play; the freak result against West Ham United washed away by the 1-0 heard around the Premier League and beyond.
Somewhat lost amongst all that – not to mention the yearlong emphasis on the play (and players) of the attacking band and the general woes at the striker position – has been the stellar play of the defense. While it is easy to acknowledge that Chelsea lead the Premier League in team defense – 20 conceded in 24 is one better than Arsenal and five better than Everton – their current form (in all competitions) is the best we’ve seen for over five years.
Just ahead of the Arsenal match in mid-December, Mourinho boasted to the media that to win 1-0 is “one of the easiest things in football.” And just in case anyone doubted him, he set about proving just that.
In the ten matches since, we’ve conceded twice. Once to Luis Suarez (well, technically Martin Skrtel) and once to Javier Hernandez – two players who always seem to score against us. But that’s it. Two goals. Ten matches. Which included the likes of Southampton, Arsenal, and the team that’s threatening to break Chelsea’s scoring record, Manchester City.
In fact, the two goals conceded in the span starting with that 0-0 draw away to Arsenal equals the best of any ten-match span from the last 1000 played, or since 1996 (and well beyond; possibly ever?). Such defensive strength was commonplace in 2004 and 2005, but we haven’t seen it since November 2008, when Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side took the early season by storm. The two goals conceded then were a bit more critical though: one coming from Park Ji-Sung in a home draw with Manchester United, the other coming from Xabi Alonso in a home loss to Liverpool. By contrast, we are undefeated in our current 10-match/2-goals-conceded streak.
So, well done to all the defenders from Gary Cahill (starting 9 of the 10) and John Terry (starting 8 of the 10) on down to Ashley Cole (starting 5 of the 10), all the midfielders, and the one who can play a bit of both when needed. May this long continue!
This article first appeared at SB Nation.