Since his return to the club in 2013, Jose Mourinho has hardly put a foot wrong at Chelsea. When the Special One returned to West London, he was welcomed back with open arms by the fans, and he has done a great deal to cement his position as a fan-favourite; in his first full season back in his throne at the club, he finished a mere four points behind league winners Manchester City, and once more secured Champions League qualification for the club.
Already, at this early stage of the season, Chelsea are in cruise control. They sit at the top of the Premier League, four points clear of second place. Not only that; they’re in the quarter finals of the League Cup and they’re at the top of their group in the Champions League. Unbeaten in all competitions thus far, this Chelsea team cut a formidable figure in anyone’s fixture list.
So, unbeaten in all competitions, and in their free-scoring form right now, this Chelsea team begs the question; are they invincible?
The last team to hold the Invincible title was Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal team of the 2003-04 season, which went unbeaten for a full 49 games. There’s no real reason why Chelsea shouldn’t be able to go the full season without being beaten - the squad has a depth of quality to it, and players with plenty of experience who can provide the leadership.
Petr Cech, John Terry and Didier Drogba still make up the (admittedly ageing) spine of the team - Frank Lampard is the only vertebrae missing from the strong backbone, having moved on to pastures greener with Manchester City. Having got shot (poor pun excused) of the misfiring Fernando Torres and replaced him with the dangerously potent frontline consisting of Diego Costa and Loic Remy, the goals are flying in; their slick, fluid midfield of Cesc Fabregas, Eden Hazard and Oscar is complemented by the mettle of Nemanja Matic, who each week strengthens his claim as the true heir of the Makélélé role. The only thing you need to do in football to win is score more goals than your opposition, and Chelsea haven’t struggled with that so far.
In Thibaut Courtois, Mourinho has at his disposal one of the most promising young ‘keepers in world football. The youngster, still only 22, spent three years on loan at Atletico Madrid under manager Diego Simeone, and won La Liga, Copa del Rey, the Europa League and the UEFA Super Cup. He nearly added the Champions League to the collection, if those pesky Galacticos hadn’t claimed la Decima in the final. Courtois is the new reliable man between the sticks, having started all 11 league games this season, and under the guidance and tutelage of Cech he won’t err far.
One concern for Chelsea is the percentage of goals that they concede in the 70th to 80th minutes of matches – a whopping 25% of their goals conceded come at this time. This is similar to the problem which Andre Villas-Boas faced at Tottenham in his first season there – considering the Portugeezer cut his teeth in the Premier League under Jose, it’s safe to assume that he learned a few coaching techniques from him – and therefore, probably also safe to assume that the Special One won’t stand for lax defending in his team. He’ll either cut out the culprits, or cut out the errors, but he’s bound to have his eyes on the prize this year; Jose being Jose, he won’t want little mistakes damaging his claim to the title.
It’s not as if Chelsea have an intimidating fixture list, either; despite it being so early in the season, they’ve already played Everton, Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United. Their quarter-final tie in the League Cup against Derby County looks like it may just be a formality; progression to the Champions League round of 16 looks almost certain. But is that when the going could get tough for Mourinho’s band of merry men? Congestion of the fixture list, cumulative fatigue from the sheer number of games player, the mental resilience of the players involved; they’re all factors which play a part.
Ultimately, nothing’s a foregone conclusion. The title chase has only just started; Chelsea have made easy work of their games so far, and they’re playing with an assured confidence and swagger. But the Premier League is nothing if it isn’t unpredictable.