Thursday 18 January 2018

Are Chelsea the most boring side in Premiership history?

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho speaks with Eden Hazard
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho speaks with Eden Hazard
Chelsea's John Terry celebrates

Arsenal supporters sang "boring, boring Chelsea" during Sunday's goalless draw at the Emirates Stadium as Jose Mourinho's men closed in on the Premier League title.

Here is the case for and against Chelsea?




From touchline knee slides to appearing on Sky Sports after pointing an accusatory finger at their coverage of his side, it is rarely possible to predict what the self-proclaimed 'Special One' will say, or do, next. Mourinho may be loved by many and loathed by more, but no one can argue the Portuguese is not a compelling character, with charisma and supreme intelligence and arguably an unrivalled competitive nature.



World Cup winner Andre Schurrle finished off a flowing team move which involved Eden Hazard, Branislav Ivanovic and Cesc Fabregas in Chelsea's opening game win at Burnley. It was a contender for team goal of the season. There were other examples, with Hazard and Fabregas often to the fore, of fine link-up play.



Chelsea were unbeaten in the opening 22 games of the season, with some commentators getting ahead of themselves by repeatedly asking about the prospect of emulating Arsenal's 'Invincibles' with an undefeated campaign. Others wondered if the quadruple could be on. Mourinho, perhaps recognising his team's flaws as well as the competitive nature of the Premier League, gave short shrift to those suggestions, while lauding his side's stylish play. The run ended at Newcastle, where Mourinho is still to win as a Premier League boss.



Chelsea can be beaten, but few teams found a way to do it. The Blues lost three times this season and did not lose in the Champions League, exiting on away goals to Paris St Germain. League One Bradford won in the most memorable fashion, coming back from 2-0 down to win 4-2 at Stamford Bridge in Chelsea's only home loss this term. Tottenham's blistering pace exposed further flaws in a thrilling New Year's Day derby, but Mourinho addressed them for the Capital One Cup final win at Wembley.



"Possession and tippy-tappy football's great," says Chelsea captain John Terry, "but if you are not winning games, you're not going to win the league." Mourinho and Chelsea are prepared to adapt. Rather than stick to a rigid style - something Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City have been accused of - the Blues have planned meticulously, for example by putting Kurt Zouma in midfield to man-mark Marouane Fellaini. Chelsea played to their strengths and limited those of the opposition.



Superlatives abound to describe the performances of Hazard this season. The 24-year-old Belgium playmaker is among the best three players in the world, according to Mourinho and Zinedine Zidane, after 18 goals in a campaign which he has lit up with his searing pace and devastating skill. The PFA Player of the Year is never dull to watch and has played in all Chelsea's 33 Premier League games.



Mourinho often plays down statistics, but also uses them to illustrate points. And they suggest Chelsea are not boring. Just two Premier League defeats all season (Arsenal are next best with six). Only Manchester City have scored more Premier League goals (70 to Chelsea's 65) this term. Chelsea have the best goal difference (+39) and are the only team in the top four tiers of English football to have an unbeaten home record (13 wins and three draws). Chelsea have also been top of the table all season.




Of the top seven, Chelsea have mustered fewer than 10 shots in a Premier League match the most often this season - failing to reach double figures for attempts on goal on 10 occasions. Four of those 10 occasions have been in their last five matches.

Arsenal, by contrast, have only failed to reach double figures for shots in five games.

John Terry_2.jpg
Chelsea's John Terry celebrates



At the end of February (game 26), only Manchester City had taken more shots per match than Chelsea (16.9 v 15.7) and only Southampton had faced fewer (9.2 v 10.0). However, they now rank fourth for each measure overall, dropping to 14.9 shots taken per match and facing 10.9 shots per match.



With Diego Costa on the pitch, Chelsea have taken a shot every five minutes and 56 seconds, scoring every 42 minutes and 35 seconds.

Without him, the numbers drop to seven minutes and 44 seconds per shot, and a goal every 67 minutes and 22 seconds.

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