The First Time vs The New Era: After 17 games
It’s been almost a decade since Chelsea first won the Premier League under Jose Mourinho. That season remains a yard-stick to measure performances of Chelsea teams over the seasons. Carlo Ancelotti did well with the resources at his disposal and won the league.
It is not a new fact that whenever Chelsea have won the Premier League, it was after a great start to the campaign. They have always been on top of the league table on Christmas whether the manager of the club is Mourinho or Ancelotti.
We recently covered the comparison of this Chelsea side to Mourinho’s title winning, trailblazing team. It is now time to look at a different aspect of that season. By Christmas of 2004, each team had played 18 games, one less than the current season. We’ll first be comparing how Chelsea have been performing based on playing home and away.
But before that, we need to look at the personnel difference from that season to the current one. But, even before that, have a look at what Mourinho had to say of his team that won the league by 12 points, lost only one game, conceded the least goals ever: 15 and kept an astounding record of 25 clean sheets, 21 of them with Cech between the sticks.
His team from a decade ago did several things very well, for one, the wingers switched wings at will. Duff would often be replaced by a certain Joe Cole. Dutchman Robben went to the right at times and they seemed impossible to mark and track for the opposition, clueless as ever.
Gudjohnsen also dropped a little sometimes, making the midfield even more powerful, when someone or the other was always free to take the pass and create more lethal chances. Effectively, this formation and Mourinho’s tactics rang the bell for every 4-4-2 playing team, including Manchester United.
Wayne Bridge or Gallas and Paulo Ferreira on the other end of the pitch were delivering killer crosses to head and feet of Didier Drogba. While Makelele was busy doing, you already know what! Of this team and formation, Mourinho had this to say:
“Look, if I have a triangle in midfield – Claude Makelele behind and two others just in front – I will always have an advantage against a pure 4-4-2 where the central midfielders are side by side. That’s because I will always have an extra man. It starts with Makelele, who is between the lines. If nobody comes to him he can see the whole pitch and has time. If he gets closed down it means one of the two other central midfielders is open. If they are closed down and the other team’s wingers come inside to help, it means there is space now for us on the flank, either for our own wingers or for our full-backs. There is nothing a pure 4-4-2 can do to stop things.”
It’s because of what the 4-3-3 (and 4-1-4-1) achieved that some people are seen asking Mourinho for a return to the same. However, while that team had set records unbeaten to date, the new side assembled by Mourinho is an evolution, and is better than the predecessor in a number of ways. What remains constant is an exceptional goal-keeper, a limited defender, and wing backs that deliver crosses instead of trying to shoot often.
Now, what we see is the major difference between the positions of Makelele and Matic, and also that of Oscar/Fabregas vis-a-vis Lampard/Cole(/Tiago).
Lampard had a great time in front of goal, especially thanks to the license given to support as well as attack along with Didier Drogba. This simultaneously took place with the switching of flanks by wingers.
Whereas now, it is more of the interchange that takes place between Oscar and Fabregas that takes the senses of the opposition players for a ride.
Clearly, Matic is in a whole new dimension of defensive midfielder because he pick his passes and accomplish them without a second thought. Makelele, always a legend and everything, could not do so many things so well. It is perhaps because of Matic that Chelsea seem a better team in this formation.
Although, whether or not they truly are better is yet to be ascertained.
This is what the seasons looked like after 17 games.
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So what do these numbers mean?
Well, Let’s have a look one by one at these stats.
Home/Away Games Played:
Chelsea have played exactly the same number of games at Stamford Bridge as in 2004 and have also played the same number of games away as in 2004. So the circumstances have more or less been the same.
Home/Away Games Performance:
This is where the first of many differences come in. In the 2004-05 season, by the 17th game, Chelsea had won 6 games out of 8 at the Stamford Bridge. They drew 2 games at home and lost none of their home fixtures.
This season, Chelsea have played the same number of games at the Bridge as Mourinho’s first season: 8. And, Bingo! They have won all of those games, exactly ZERO points have been dropped at Stamford Bridge this season. That’s 4 points more than 2004 at home this season.
Away from home, Chelsea have played the same number of games in each of the concerned seasons, 9. In 2004-05, they won 6, drew 2 and lost 1 game away to Manchester City. It was the sole lose of that magnificent team that season.
This time around, Chelsea have played 9 games on the road, have won 1 game less with 5 wins than ’04 and have drawn one more that the same season with 3 draws. St. James’ Park seemed unconquerable to the Blues and they lost their unbeaten streak to Alan Pardew’s inspired Newcastle United.
In 2004, by the 17th game, Chelsea were top of the table. On their way, they had rippled the back of the net a good 33 times. Chelsea scored 1.87 goals in every home game and the same stat stood at 2 goals per game for away game. This simply means that Chelsea were more lethal Away from home. However the picture would only complete when conceded goals are also considered. For now, let’s take this much away: Chelsea scored 15 goals in 8 games at Stamford Bridge and 18 goals in 9 games on the road.
In Jose Mourinho’s second Sophomore season, Chelsea are again top of the table after 17 games. The ball has found the back of opposition’s net 5 more times than 2004-05, with 38 goals scored. Of these, 20 have come at home in 8 games and the remaining 18 have been scored while travelling. Factoring in the difficult away fixtures against Manchester teams and others, the 2 goals scored per away game is not a bad stat. On home turf, Chelsea have killed opponents at will, scoring 2.5 goals a game.
Conclusion: Chelsea have become deadlier at home, and have maintained the same proficiency in scoring goals away from home when compared to the 2004-05 season.
Chelsea still hold the record for the least goals conceded in a season of the Premier League. In the record setting 2004-05 season, they let in 8 goals in the first 17 games. That’s 0.47 goals per game. Scoring 1.94 goals in response in every game only helped their cause. At Home, they conceded a measly 3 goals in 8 games: 0.37 goals/per game. That sounds like a made up stat more than it seems a reality, which it in fact is. On their journeys, Chelsea conceded a little more than that, but just a little more. Petr Cech and company allowed 5 goals in 9 away games. That’s a whopping, mind boggling, astounding 0.55 goals in every game. They scored 4 times more than that. I certainly hope the picture is crystal clear.
In the current season, after 17 games, Chelsea have a good record in terms of conceded goals, but not as great a record as Mourinho’s first season. The lack of clean sheets is no hidden fact. However, let’s have an statistical view at the numbers. At the Bridge, Chelsea have conceded 3 goals, the same as that remarkable season. They even have a much better goal difference thanks to more goals scored than that time. Away from home, the story takes a different turn, with 10 goals conceded. That’s twice as much as 2004-05’s corresponding stat. Chelsea have conceded 1.11 goals in every away game this season. Scoring 2 goals per game has helped them stay top of the league but these numbers need to change soon.
Since goal difference is a direct relative of goals scored and goals conceded, there would be no in-depth analysis. However, we shall state the numbers for those who want to see them.
The overall goal difference after 17 games is the same for both of the concerned seasons. However, the difference is obvious in both home and away games.
Goal difference at home was +12 in the 2004-05 campaign. It’s +17 this Christmas. That’s because 5 more goals have been scored and not because the defence has been any better, in fact, it has been equally effective with 3 goals allowed.
Away games saw the Blues stack a goal difference of +13 goals in 2004-05 season. This season, it is at +8. The difference comes from the number of goals conceded, which has grown from 5 in 2004-05 to 10 in the current season. So while the strikers have maintained the same level of firepower, the defence has let the team down a little bit.
The total points gained this season have been more than 2004-05, because of one and only one reason: the Blues’ ability to win 100% of their home fixtures. Besides, it could have been a better number if the Blues had a better away record. But then again, you can only ask for so much from a team. Away games at Manchester United, Manchester City and Newcastle United come with a certain risk attached. Frankly the team has done very well to come away with as many points as it did.
It is one of the most foolish notions to compare two of the most different teams to play under Mourinho. One was a lean, oiled machine that took leads and protected them with walls. The other is an efficient juggernaut that steamrolls anything in its way. Piece of advice: enjoy the addictive, attacking football. With a Quadruple in sight, who knows what the future holds for these men in Blue.
What do you think are the highlights of these two great Chelsea sides, which one will turn out to be more memorable?
Keep the Blue Flag Flying High
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