Stats: How bad is Chelsea's start compared to previous defending champions in the EPL?
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.
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.
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.
|#||DEFENDING CHAMPIONS||SEASON||POINTS||EVENTUAL CHAMPIONS|
|Manchester United||2011/12||12||Manchester City|
|5||Manchester United||1993/94||10||Mancester United|
|Manchester United||1994/95||10||Blackburn Rovers|
|Manchester United||1999/2000||10||Mancester United|
|11||Manchester United||2000/01||8||Mancester United|
|Manchester City||2012/13||8||Mancester United|
|15||Manchester United||2013/14||7||Mancester City|
|17||Manchester United||1996/97||6||Mancester United|
|19||Manchester United||2007/08||5||Mancester United|
|Manchester United||2008/09||5||Mancester United|
|22||Blackburn Rovers||1995/96||3||Mancester United|
Stats via Opta