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Graham Ruthven: Chelsea 2014 vs Chelsea 2004? No competition

Jose Mourinho's best-ever side? Our man thinks so...

by Graham Ruthven | December 10, 2014

Jose Mourinho has never been one to take defeat well. Even more so when that defeat has blemished an otherwise unbeaten season, as was the case with Chelsea’s loss to Newcastle on Saturday. The Blues boss dismissed the result as an “anomaly” before blaming the St James’ Park ball-boys.

But while Mourinho’s reaction may have been undignified, the defeat to Newcastle shouldn’t undermine what Chelsea have achieved this season. They might not be the ‘Invincibles’ but this is still Mourinho’s greatest ever team.

Of course, such a claim prompts comparison with the sparkling sides Mourinho has assembled over the course of his shimmering managerial career. And the ‘Special One’ has presided over his fair share of special teams.

Life in the old Drog yet

How does this Chelsea side compare to the one Mourinho clinched the 2004-05 Premier League title with, for instance? The Blues ended that campaign with a record 95 points – setting a benchmark that might already be beyond Mourinho’s current side – but player-by-player, position-by-position this Chelsea team is stronger.

Just as has transpired this season, Chelsea took advantage of a flawed field to clinch title glory in 2005 – and so their record points tally is subject to such mitigation – but still deserve their place in time as one of the Premier League’s greatest ever teams.

Mourinho’s original Chelsea side – at their peak between 2004 and 2006 – was built on defensive solidity, and the centre-back partnership between Ricardo Carvalho and John Terry. But beyond that pairing, how many would make the club’s current lineup?

Didier Drogba, perhaps. Frank Lampard, maybe. But few more. In Thibaut Courtois Chelsea might have the best goalkeeper in England, protected by the Premier League’s best centre-back pairing – Gary Cahill and Terry.

Between Cesar Azpilicueta, Branislav Ivanovic and Filipe Luis they also have the division’s best full-backs, regardless of which two of the three play.

The joy of Cesc

Then there’s the midfield duo of Cesc Fabregas and Nemanja Matic, who give Chelsea nuanced balance in the centre of the pitch, with the former the Blues’ creator-in-chief and the latter their enforcer-at-large – the likes of which hasn’t been seen at Stamford Bridge since Claude Makelele wore blue.

Eden Hazard, Oscar, Willian and Andre Schurrle are also among some of the final third operators in Europe. And while Sergio Aguero might be the Premier League’s most potent striker, Diego Costa embodies his side’s spirit like no other player in the division. The Brazilian-born forward is the battering ram with which Chelsea pummel opponents, a strategy Mourinho first honed at Porto.

It was with the Portuguese club that Mourinho first made his mark, winning the treble in 2004 and toppling Europe’s elite to win the Champions League title. Ricardo Carvalho, Deco and Maniche were among some of the finest Portuguese players of their generation, but with the exception of the former not one member of Porto’s starting lineup would warrant a place in the current Chelsea team.

This isn’t just a Sneijder remark

Mourinho also clinched an historic treble in his final season at Inter Milan, but how many of that side would make it into this season’s Chelsea starting lineup? With the perhaps exception of Wesley Sneijder, not one single player.

However, Mourinho’s greatest achievement to date cannot be found in either of his Champions League triumphs, but in his toppling of Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona – arguably the greatest team to have ever played the modern game. And yet not even that Real Madrid team can claim to be Mourinho’s best.

The Blues’ squad depth might not be at Galacticos’ level, and they might not possess a player like Cristiano Ronaldo, but Chelsea’s starting XI is more balanced and generally more complete than Mourinho’s best Real Madrid side.

Mourinho’s Real Madrid might have been better at winning games, winning La Liga with a dynamic brand of fast and furious attacking play, but his current Chelsea team are better at not losing. And whilst against the spirit of competition, that might be a more valuable trait for a side challenging on domestic and continental fronts.

Even better than the Real thing

Defeat to Newcastle United on Saturday saw Chelsea fall short of a club-record 24 games unbeaten in all competitions. They may have lost their invincible league record at Newcastle, but by such time Mourinho’s side had already travelled to Everton, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United without suffering defeat, whilst emphatically dismissing of Arsenal and Spurs at the Bridge.

“Nobody has done better than us,” Mourinho reiterated after defeat in the North-East.

“Everybody would like to be in our position. So we are more than fine. We are better than anybody else.”

Indeed, Chelsea are still better than the rest, and maybe even better than anything Mourinho has built before. This is his greatest creation.


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