Jose Mourinho’s return has been nothing short of phenomenal. The Portuguese manager has built a new Chelsea; A team that’s strong and competitive. Last season, the Portuguese claimed his side were the little horse in the three horse race, this time around he has built a squad capable of winning trophies and defeating strong opponents.
Top of the table on boxing day with only one loss this season in all competitive games, Mourinho’s boys are often compared to the Chelsea side which won their first Premier League title in 2004-05.
As for history, the 04-05 season witnessed Chelsea break and made plenty of records:
Fewest goals conceded in a Premier League season (15)
Most clean sheets kept in a season (25)
Most wins in a season (29)
Most consecutive away wins (9)
Most points in a season (95)
Let’s compare players from both sides on their positional plays.
Goalkeeper: Petr Cech vis-a-vis Thibaut Courtois
European teams would perhaps envy Chelsea for this reason: they have in the rolls two of the top 3 goalkeepers in Europe. Interestingly, both of these exceptional goalkeepers made their debut for Chelsea at the age of 22. Petr Cech was unbeatable in 04-05 and has never let Chelsea down till date. The Czech international conceded only 15 goals in the entire season. The man responsible for keeping Carlo Cudicini out finds himself in the same situation today. Courtois was recalled by Mourinho after three loan spells at Atletico Madrid. The 6’6″ keeper is an upgrade to Cech.
The Belgium international has achieved a lot more at 22 and is bound to improve in the coming years, a finished product at a very young age. With his quick reflexes and the ability to be in charge during set pieces gives the young Belgian the edge over Petr Cech. Courtois has an outstanding 100 per cent track record on claiming crosses, despite the more physical play of players in the Premier League. He has successfully caught all 51 of the crosses faced this season.
Right Back: Paulo Ferreira vis-a-vis Branislav Ivanovic
Ferreira was a loyal Mourinho singing, in 04-05, he played 40 games out of 42 serving the club when called on. The Portuguese was limited in terms of talent: he did not score a goal in his entire Premier League term although his number of starts declined through the years but he remained a great professional. Unlike Branislav Ivanovic the Portuguese right back was never sent out in a blue shirt.
Ivanovic signed for the Blues in 2008 and has been an integral part of the squad this season. The Serb possesses a lot more physicality than his ex-teammate. Ivanovic is seen going forward more often and his crosses have improved by a great margin, scoring 2 goals from 22 shots this season. He’s great at winning aerial duels and uses his physical strength to good use. The Serbian international happens to be a great center back as well.
Paulo Ferreira can be applauded for his dedication to the club, but 30-year-old Ivanovic certainly triumphs Paulo Ferreira in the right back position.
Center Back: Ricardo Carvalho vis-a-vis Gary Cahill
Carvalho, who was considered one of the best centre-backs at Euro 2004, joined his former manager Jose Mourinho at Chelsea in 2004. He was specifically recruited to organize the defense and support John Terry. The Portuguese was fierce and competitive, making Chelsea’s defense strong and courageous. Carvalho’s positional play was regarded one of the best and the Portuguese international showed great discipline, game in and out.
Unlike Carvalho, Garry Cahill was a low profile purchase from Bolton; a mid table club for £7 million. The England vice-captain has grown under John Terry and showcased phenomenal strength and defending skill this season. The English international has won 14 tackles this season with a success rate of 44%. He has made 19 interceptions, 110 clearances and 15 blocks.
A player who has grafted his way to the top and earned immense respect from the Stamford Bridge faithfuls. After Ricardo Caravalho, the Englishman certainly has grown into one of the finest defenders of his generation.
Center Back: John Terry is an improved John Terry
Famed for his phenomenal on-pitch leadership skills and carrying the rare legendary status of coming through Chelsea’s youth team, John Terry has achieved everything. The Terry of 14/15 is an upgraded version of himself from the 04-05 Premier League season.
The John Terry of now has immense experience and has increased in every aspect of the game. He has won more tackles (80%) this season than in 04/05 (75%), compare that to Terry in 04-05 who won 72% of the duels and this season has won 80% of them.
Back then the Chelsea captain might not have been the best central defender but, this season alongside Garry Cahill, John Terry certainly wins the crown with only 13 goals conceded this season with 9 clean sheets topping the Premier League table.
Terry can still bully strikers, clear crucial balls and win all kinds of duels, this time around reducing the number of fouls per game from 0.94 to 0.18. The center back’s captaincy and leadership skills cannot be matched by any player in the current Chelsea squad. The Chelsea legend still remains the wall that rarely falters and will be hoping to lift the Premier League trophy once again, a new contract per Mourinho, is only a formality.
Left Back: William Gallas vis-a-vis Cesar Azpilicueta
Surprisingly, neither of these were natural left-backs. Both natural right foot players have donned the left back position. Gallas was converted into a left back by Mourinho during the 04-05 season but had a rare ability to play across the backline. A great addition to the defensive line where Gallas made sure nothing went past him. The French international possessed enough quality to help out the left wing when needed and his ability to play at any given position in the defense made him a spectacular player for the Blues.
Cesar Azipilicueta, a natural right-back converted into left back in 13-14 under Mourinho has adapted extremely well to his new position. With 15 starts in 18 games the Spanish International has proven to be a defensive wall for the Blues. He might not go forward but certainly has the ability to track down wingers and make sure nothing goes past the left side. The Spaniard is quick, aggressive and performs with the industrious work rate that makes him a Mourinho favorite.
Earning over a 100 appearances for Chelsea in just 2 season Cesar Azpilicueta has certainly given the Blues a great left back for seasons to come.
This season Chelsea have a strong defense with 9 clean sheets and only 13 goals conceded so far. The defense is a blend of youth and experience which makes it a wall impossible to penetrate.
We move on from the defense to the midfield and strikers in the follow up.
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Edited By: Ojas Tripathi