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2004/2005 was not only our best side ever, but the best in PL history


Eton Blue at the Chelsea Megastore

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A little (well quite big, actually) article I put together for a site I write for. Not doing this to boost article views or as a shameless plug, so I won't post the link to the article itself. Just wanted some feedback and thoughts from fellow Blues. Enjoy!

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As I type away, only one team in the Premier League is still able to boast the feat of 'invincibility' thus far. The fledgling league table is still young and far from indicating final standings, and while I have no doubt the run will come to an end somewhere along the line, Jose Mourinho's Chelsea remain the sole unbeaten outfit. This trait has led to some quarters drawing comparisons to the famous Arsenal side of 2003/4, whose remarkable achievement of avoiding defeat from week 1 to 38 earned them the now iconic red-ribboned golden trophy.

While suggestions that Mourinho's side can apply blue ribbons to the same colour trophy may be premature, the discourse has once more unearthed the question of 'which was the greatest team in Premier League history?'. Popular opinion would tell you that particular title belongs to the previously mentioned 'Invincibles' side, but I am going to contest that widely held view.

Before I do that, however, I want to establish that I am in no way trying to undermine the achievements of that Wenger team, or shrugging them off. As phenomenal as that group of players were, there was simply one group of players who were, at the very least statistically, greater.

The fewest number of defeats in a league season of course deserves great recognition, and clearly the Arsenal side in question receive just that, but from as objective a view as is possible, one side holds a more impressive feat. Jose Mourinho's 2004/5 title-winning Chelsea, who knocked the 'Invincibles' off their pedestal, eased to the highest points tally, most wins, fewest goals conceded and most clean sheets in the history of the Premier League.

Arsenal's unbeaten squad are often remembered for their flair. The excitement of witnessing Henry and co. destroy defences and humiliate helpless keepers with magical goals is burnt into the memory of all who were lucky enough to experience it happen. So perhaps from an emotional point of view, that Arsenal side appeal to the neutral football followers to a greater extent than the team I am attempting to make a case for. Because of this, many will continue to be of the opinion that the 'Invincibles' were the greatest.

But ignoring the quality of the football involved, which was indeed still very high in Mourinho's team, and coming from a more objective point of view, the Chelsea side in question were better. 'Better' in statistical terms. The characteristic of efficiency in football is usually applied to the German side of the game, but Chelsea perhaps personified this quality better than any other team. Achieving the record number of wins whilst also scoring an impressive but comparatively modest 72 goals highlights this fact. Chelsea won 15 of their 19 away games during the course of that season, with a great many 1-0 victories. Not as beautiful to watch, but certainly more ruthless and efficient.

The simple statistic of 0 defeats sways many commenters towards the 'Invincibles' in this argument, but Chelsea's record of 29 wins is, again objectively, more impressive. There may not be a romantic title for Chelsea's achievement as there is for Arsenal's, but the point I am trying to make is a simple one:

Defeating opponents is more impressive than avoiding defeat.

Football matches are played to be won, titles and cup runs exist with the aim of winning, squads are built to win games. Winning is at the heart of football, and Mourinho's first Chelsea side won the most. Sure, Arsenal were not won against for an entire season, but how important a factor should Chelsea's sole defeat in 2004/5 really be when they were better at winning than Arsenal.

Finally, perhaps the most astonishing and overlooked statistic ever recorded in the pantheon of title-winning sides, comes from the same Chelsea side. Petr Cech's goal was breached a grand total of 15 times. 15 times, in an entire Premier League season. That translates to a rate of not even conceding once every 2 games. Providing my maths is not failing me here, Chelsea let in 0.4 goals a game.

The combination of most wins and fewest goals against is truly remarkable. In normal terms, the two would not usually match. Winning more games than any other side has ever managed would suggest an extremely attack-minded philosophy, and allowing the fewest amount of strikes past your keeper in a season would suggest the dreaded parking of buses. Chelsea were of neither philosophy in particular that year. Besides being an admittedly narrow 5 points better off than the 'Invincibles', Jose Mourinho, at his first attempt in English football, created the most balanced, efficient team this country has seen, and as a result, the greatest.

Edited by BaconButty
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Great article!

Of course it was, although Arsenal fans always like to say they're so called unbeatables who crashed out of every other competition and didn't even break the points record are the best side ever. Agreed they were one of the three best sides to win it (Man United treble winning team been the other) but we were most definitely the best.

The most points ever, record breaking Chelsea, with a league cup in tow aswell as are most definitely the best side to ever win it. We also did what Arsenal never did and retain the Premier a League title the following season. I'd argue that that Arsenal team wee a flash in the pan who didn't win enough.

Edited by Bobbywoodhogan
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Great article!

Of course it was, although Arsenal fans always like to say they're so called unbeatables who crashed out of every other competition and didn't even break the points record are the best side ever. Agreed they were one of the three best sides to win it (Man United treble winning team been the other) but we were most definitely the best.

The most points ever, record breaking Chelsea, with a league cup in tow aswell as are most definitely the best side to ever win it. We also did what Arsenal never did and retain the Premier a League title the following season. I'd argue that that Arsenal team wee a flash in the pan who didn't win enough.

Cheers, mate.

This was written for a neutral site so I played up the admiration of the Invincibles and tried to appear unbiased, but in reality I can't stand Arsenal or Wenger, and I love nothing more than the fact that we went and broke the points record the year right after they went unbeaten.

Sadly most people choose to ignore the fact our 2004/5 team was better, probably because most people hate Chelsea and our success.

Edited by BaconButty
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Great article!

Of course it was, although Arsenal fans always like to say they're so called unbeatables who crashed out of every other competition and didn't even break the points record are the best side ever. Agreed they were one of the three best sides to win it (Man United treble winning team been the other) but we were most definitely the best.

The most points ever, record breaking Chelsea, with a league cup in tow aswell as are most definitely the best side to ever win it. We also did what Arsenal never did and retain the Premier a League title the following season. I'd argue that that Arsenal team wee a flash in the pan who didn't win enough.

 

The Arsenal invincibles is very overrated anyway, it wasn't so competitive then, even Man United where in transition and Leeds and Liverpool where just downhill.

 

Lets see if the same team could do it now, even better in the next  few years with other teams come into the fold, it's going to be interesting.

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The Arsenal invincibles is very overrated anyway, it wasn't so competitive then, even Man United where in transition and Leeds and Liverpool where just downhill.

Lets see if the same team could do it now, even better in the next few years with other teams come into the fold, it's going to be interesting.

Completely agree. I think our teams in 09/10 and this season could have gone unbeaten when Arsenal did.

Arsenal went unbeaten around the 'Big Four' era, and that hasn't existed in the Premier League in years. It's the Big Seven or Big Eight nowadays in reality, and even teams at the bottom are far more competitive.

Edited by BaconButty
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Yep, a massive dive. Also, they drew 12 games, that's almost a 3rd of their games. And also lost in all 3 cup competitions. It's an acachievement but nowhere near as good as utds treble for example.

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Judging the best premier league winners of all time is hard and no statistical measure would be suffice due to the different time periods these all played in but I will try my best to rank the eras of winners:

1. Man United (99-01 & 03). Three straight titles when Arsenal were extremely strong. Also in this time us, Liverpool and Leeds were very competitive. Obviously they won the treble in 99 and the Champions League was really strong at this time. Also in 2001, I think they had won the league in March.

2. Chelsea 04-06. We all obviously know about this great team. Should have and probably would have won more had Mourinho stayed. Though the second season, there was little competition. Second may actually be a bit high, but in both seasons the league was never in doubt.

3. Arsenal (2002 & 2004). Great team and should have won three straight titles but blew the title in 2003. Probably could have done better in Europe and drew too many games.

5. Man United (93-94, 96-97). This team dominated the 90s and faced various challengers to the title. Also football was changing a lot in the country so I think it was impressive how they managed to adapt. A good blend of home grown talent and foreign players and when I watch the tapes of these teams, this is the best football any Fergie team has played.

6. Blackburn 95- Perhaps a little high, but I think it's the last of its kind type of achievement. A club of that size and infrastructure won't win England's top division again, unless the financial bubble bursts. Of course they were bank rolled but I really think it was a unique achievement when we look at the sort of clubs who have finished near the top since them.

7. Man United (07-09) Some might think this is a little low down for a side who won 3 straight leagues and a Champions league, but I just think they weren't a great side. They were very fortunate that we mucked around with our managers (Grant & Scolari) and one year Benitez almost beat them to the title. The 2007 team was good, but I feel like 2008 and 2009 they were there for the taking.

8. Man City (2012 & 2014)- Both times they have won the league with a lot of points and playing some great football. But I've put them so low down because they made it unnecessarily close on both occasions and relied heavily on some unlikely collapses in the last few games for them to win the league (Man United v Everton, Liverpool v Chelsea & palace). Fair enough they won the leagues but they aren't a vintage side. Oh and they've been an embarrassment in Europe!

9. Arsenal 98- The greatest title comeback, weren't they like 15 points behind in January? But they then proceeded this by barely challenging United in coming years.

10. Chelsea 2010. This will upset a few people. Yes we scored the record amount of goals. But this team was not that great, proven by its performance in Europe and its weak defence of the title. We only just won the league against a United side who had just lost Ronaldo and Tevez; additionally, we relied heavily on Blackburn holding United to a draw with 4 games to go after we had just lost to Spurs. A fun team to watch but not a great team.

11. Man United 11 & 13. By far the worst teams to win the league. They were just terrible. In 10/11 we won like 4 games between November and February and still almost won the league. Man City were also pathetic challengers in 2013. If both our dressing rooms didn't let egos get ahead of themselves, we could both have one more title each. Also when I think how bad United were in 12/13, it makes me angry to think that we sacked RDM. At least we would have had a chance if we stuck with him.

Remember these were all champions and non of them are bad sides. It's obviously a harsh ranking for the sides who came in the bottom half of my list, but I like to think my reasons are justified.

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Be interesting to see which side has the highest win percentage of all the games they played in one season - so including cup games.  In my view that would give a good indication of a team that could claim to be the best.  Still flaws though.

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Judging the best premier league winners of all time is hard and no statistical measure would be suffice due to the different time periods these all played in but I will try my best to rank the eras of winners:

1. Man United (99-01 & 03). Three straight titles when Arsenal were extremely strong. Also in this time us, Liverpool and Leeds were very competitive. Obviously they won the treble in 99 and the Champions League was really strong at this time. Also in 2001, I think they had won the league in March.

 

We beat that bunch 5-0.

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A great side not only wins the title they also retain it.

 

The important of that cannot be overstated enough IMO.

 

The Chelsea team of 2004/5 set records for most points, wins, clean sheets and most consecutive away wins (9!). All of that en route to finishing 12 points ahead of the 'Invincibles' from the season before.

 

We're all obviously biased to some degree but the statistically reasoned argument would state that the Chelsea team was better.

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The important of that cannot be overstated enough IMO.

 

The Chelsea team of 2004/5 set records for most points, wins, clean sheets and most consecutive away wins (9!). All of that en route to finishing 12 points ahead of the 'Invincibles' from the season before.

 

Their 73 goals that year was only one more than we scored the next season. It's also pretty tame compared to the 103 we scored in 09-10.

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I'd say United of 07-08 or so really overall. United treble winning team was obviously immense but I don't think they were as dominating the rest as much as the United team of 07-09 would do. 

 

Domestically, it's chelsea 04-06. 

Edited by MANoWAR
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Something that hasn't been brought up yet is that the 2004-05 squad changed the tactical face of the EPL. Within the space of 12 months the 4-4-2 was obliterated in favour of 4-5-1 and 4-3-3 systems, the dedicated defensive midfielder role became a must-have for all teams and strike partnerships were replaced by lone strikers.

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Be interesting to see which side has the highest win percentage of all the games they played in one season - so including cup games. In my view that would give a good indication of a team that could claim to be the best. Still flaws though.

I have e-mailed this very question to Martin Tyler, let's see if it ends up in his next Ask topic.

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Better than the 04/05 side that got more points, won more games and also won the league cup?

Yes.

The points record should have been broken but we lost our two last games due to squad rotation (Cole, Huth, Smith, Diarra coming in for example)

Both teams won 29 games in the league

and the league cup is meh

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