Jose Mourinho Mk. I v Jose Mourinho Mk. II

November 26, 2013 in Premier League by Ballsy Banter

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Having levelled out their form and made their way toward the top of the Premier League table, Jose Mourinho’s new look Chelsea side appear to have found their feet. With the Special One – sorry, the Happy One – in charge for the second time in the club’s history, there was a lot of talk about whether his administration this time around would reap the same successes as his first reign.

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With Manchester City seen off in the league, an in-form Arsenal team beaten in the Capital One Cup, and a convincing Champions League campaign thus far – scoring 10 goals without reply in their last three European games – it seems so far, so good for the Boys in Blue.

However, even with all that said and done, how likely is it that Chelsea will be sat on top of England’s top-flight come May? And how does the squad Jose has inherited and added to this term compare to that which he took charge of and improved back in the 2004/2005 and 2005-2006 seasons?

There are a few elder statesmen still knocking around from that “first title in 50 years” campaign and the following year’s title success, too, with Frank Lampard, John Terry and Petr Cech looking to be forming the backbone of this year’s team, but the players around them changing beyond recognition.

Starting at the back – Cech is still in between the sticks, backed up then by Carlo Cudicini, backed up now by Mark Schwarzer – with world-class ‘keeper Thibaut Courtois out on-loan at Atletico Madrid.

At the heart of the defence, Chelsea captain John Terry was partnered with the likes of Ricardo Carvalho and William Gallas over the course of two title-winning seasons – two names that have proven themselves as some of the best the league has ever seen.

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Nowadays, Terry is used as more of a rotation player than ever before. Defensive partners include David Luiz, Branislav Ivanovic and Ashley Cole, with the Englishman the only name from those three that you would currently associate with the world’s elite.

The midfield is where things have really changed. Names including Damien Duff, Shaun Wright-Phillips and a young (but old-looking) Arjen Robben have been replaced with prodigious talents such as Juan Mata, Eden Hazard, Oscar and Andre Schurrle, to name but a few.

These middle-of-the-park changes show a huge switch in playing style and mentality from Mourinho’s first stint in charge. Back in the day, Chelsea would rely on the fact that they didn’t concede many goals – just 15 in the 2004/2005 campaign, and 22 in 2005/2006 – to grind out results, hoping to nab the odd goal on the break.

This time around, however, Jose has had to adapt how he liked to set up his Blues. The game must now be won by Chelsea, not lost by the opposition, as was the case before, resulting in a few anomalies in what would have been seen as easy wins before now. That said, the John Terry-led backline isn’t exactly leaky – it’s let in just 10 goals in 12 Premier League games thus far, leaving them joint second on that front as well as in the league.

Back to a point I made earlier – “hoping to nab the odd goal”. The main tool in that arsenal was the not-so-inconspicuous figure of Ivorian powerhouse Didier Drogba heading up the Chelsea attack. Jose’s men don’t have that now. Sure, £50 million man Fernando Torres is starting to come good, and Samuel Eto’o is showing that clinical finishing ability he has always had, but the lack of a Drogba is the main difference between then and now.

Would Chelsea have won those back-to-back titles without Didier? Almost certainly not, he was the star in that team. And, although this year Chelsea may not have that goal-a-game option up-top, the West London outfit do possess an attacking midfield line-up that is widely considered the best in the league. A plethora of talent that should, surely, be feeding Romelu Lukaku – the new Didier Drogba.

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