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Stats: How bad is Chelsea's start compared to previous defending champions in the EPL?

Ed Ran
4.87K   //    30 Aug 2015, 12:17 IST
Worst starts defending champions EPL
Jose Mourinho's Chelsea side have had one of the worst starts to the Premier League season for a defending champion

Nobody expected Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea side to start the 2015/16 season in this manner. For a team that won 26 games last season, losing only three and conceding only 32 goals (the best defence in the EPL), the Blues are currently 13th with only four points from as many games. 

Although it is too early in the season to panic or ring any alarm bells, the fact that Chelsea have already conceded 9 goals this season without any clean sheets will be a cause for concern that may have to be addressed before the transfer window closes in a couple of days.

But how bad is their start compared to the defending champions in previous seasons? The table below shows that Chelsea have had the second worst start, just one point better off than 1994/95 champions Blackburn Rovers. Although much of Blackburn’s fortunes changed after title-winning manager Kenny Dalglish became Director of Football and was replaced by Ray Harford, Chelsea are nowhere close to being in the same boat. 

The Blues have pretty much the same squad that won the title at a canter last season and have added ex-Barcelona forward Pedro and signed Radamel Falcao on loan. But it’s the defence that has come under scrutiny with Branislav Ivanovic struggling at right back, John Terry no longer the commanding presence in the back four and Nemanja Matic struggling to find the form that made him such an outstanding defensive midfielder in 2014/15. 

Blackburn Rovers Kenny Dalglish EPL trophy
Blackburn Rovers won the title under Kenny Dalglish (C) in 1994/95 and finished seventh in 1995/96 under Ray Harford (R)

Good starts not always a good omen

Looking at the list, many defending champions have had terrible starts to the new season. But even a good start to the season doesn’t always guarantee success.

Some of the Premier League’s most dominant sides have fallen away over the course of the season. Arsenal’s 2003/04 Invincibles had a perfect start before a new-look Chelsea side under Jose Mourinho picked up the pace and won the title with a 12-point margin. 

Chelsea have experienced starts with a perfect record in four games twice – in 2005/06 and 2010/11. On the first occasion, they managed to defend their title beating Manchester United by eight points. But in 2010/11, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side won by nine points in the end. 

But even Sir Alex will look at this list and wonder what could have been. Manchester United lost the title on goal difference to derby rivals Manchester City in spite of a perfect start to the 2011/12 season. In 1994/95 and 1997/98, he had lost out to Dalglish and Arsene Wenger in spite of dropping only two points after the first four games. 

Arsene Wenger Sir Alex Ferguson
Both Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson have blown good starts to the season to lose the title

Teams have won the title with bad starts

On the other hand, teams have picked themselves up over the course of the season to come back and win the title. Sir Alex sides were experts at this when they dropped six to seven points early in the season. They still came out on top come May, winning the title in 1996/97, 2007/08 and 2008/09. 

It remains to be seen if Chelsea can recover in a league that is becoming much more tougher to win thanks to the new TV deal giving all 20 clubs enough money to sign quality players and remain competitive with teams up and down the table. 

1 Arsenal 2004/05 12 Chelsea
  Chelsea 2005/06 12 Chelsea
  Chelsea 2010/11 12 Manchester United
  Manchester United 2011/12 12 Manchester City
5 Manchester United 1993/94 10 Mancester United
  Manchester United 1994/95 10 Blackburn Rovers
  Manchester United 1997/98 10 Arsenal
  Manchester United 1999/2000 10 Mancester United
  Manchester United 2003/04 9 Arsenal
9 Chelsea 2006/07 9 Mancester United
  Manchester United 2009/10 9 Chelsea
11 Manchester United 2000/01 8 Mancester United
  Manchester United 2001/02 8 Arsenal
  Arsenal 2002/03 8 Mancester United
  Manchester City 2012/13 8 Mancester United
15 Manchester United 2013/14 7 Mancester City
  Manchester City 2014/15 7 Chelsea
17 Manchester United 1996/97 6 Mancester United
  Arsenal 1998/99 6 Mancester United
19 Manchester United 2007/08 5 Mancester United
  Manchester United 2008/09 5 Mancester United
21 Chelsea 2015/16 4 -
22 Blackburn Rovers 1995/96 3 Mancester United

Stats via Opta

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Ed Ran
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