Chelsea have started the new Premier League season strongly, but how does this Chelsea side compare to that of 2004?
Since Roman Abramovich took over at Chelsea, his significant investment has made the Blues one of the strongest teams in Europe. Despite coming close to winning the Premier League last season, it was clear there were one or two missing links. The addition of Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas over the summer has arguably made this the greatest Chelsea side in the Abramovich era. But how does this squad compare to that of 2004, when Chelsea were on the brink of lifting the League trophy for the first time in decades?
Back in 2004 Chelsea were on their way to winning the Premier League for the first time, with a strong squad that included the likes of Didier Drogba, Eidur Gudjohnson, Claude Makelele, Joe Cole and Ricardo Carvalho. They lost only one game all season and finished the campaign scoring a total of 74 goals and conceding a mere fifteen, the lowest in the League.
Jose Mourinho was making his mark on the Premier League and the Special One’s team was becoming increasingly difficult to break down.
Chelsea finished first in the league with ninety-five points, a record that stands to this day.
Ten years on, Mourinho is well into his second reign as Chelsea boss and from day one he has hinted that this season would be their year.
Chelsea have set off with a bang, with six wins from seven, including a draw against champions Manchester City. The Blues currently sit comfortably at the top of the table on 19 points. After a busy summer transfer window, they have filled the missing gaps and look to be the complete package.
So how do the two sides compare?
2004: Cech & Cudicini
Chelsea signed Petr Cech in 2004 from French side Rennes, for a paltry sum of £7 million. Cech was competing for the number one spot with fan favourite Carlo Cudicini. The two resulted in a solid experienced goalkeeper and a young upcoming keeper with great potential.
2014: Cech & Courtois
Ironically, this season is a similar situation to that of 2004. Petr Cech, now a club legend with vast experience, is fighting for the number one spot with young Belgian international Thibaut Courtious, who has spent the previous two years out on loan. Again, two talented goalkeepers at the club, the challenge for Mourinho will be keeping the pair happy.
2004: Ferreira, Terry, Carvalho, Gallas
A solid defence became a trademark in Jose Mourhino’s side, with a distinct lack of rotation throughout the season. The Portuguese had brought Ferreira and Carvalho with him from Porto, and Carvalho was able to form a great partnership with club captain John Terry.
2014: Ivanovic, Terry, Cahill, Azpilcueta
The latest back four has remained very similar throughout the start of this season and the previous season. Terry and Cahill have formed a solid partnership together and are able to complement each other’s game. With disciplined wing-backs, this defence offers a great physical presence in the team and even poses a danger from set pieces.
2004: Makelele, Lampard, Cole, Duff
Throughout the 2004 campaign Chelsea had a strong midfield, with depth too. Mourinho used a diamond formation for most of the season with Claude Makelele controlling the heart of midfield, coining the phrase ‘the Makelele role’. He rarely got forward, with his main focus being to sit in front of the back four and protect his defence. In front of the French midfielder, Chelsea had pace and creativity in abundance in the shape of Duff and Joe Cole, with both scoring goals and creating chances with ease. Frank Lampard was the club’s top goal scorer from midfield with thirteen league goals, including one against Bolton to secure the title.
2014: Matic, Fabregas, Willian, Oscar, Hazard
This strong midfield combines pace with power and creativity. With Matic, it seems that Chelsea have finally been able to re-fill the ‘Makelele role’. Mourinho brought in Cesc Fabregas from FC Barcelona to provide some extra creativity and the Spaniard has already racked up six assists so far this season. Chelsea’s attacking midfielder, Eden Hazard, strikes fear into opposition defences and was the Premier League’s most fouled player last season. Brazilian duo Willian and Oscar are able to provide great work rate and energy off the bench when required.
2004: Drogba, Gudjohnsen, Kezman
Back in 2004 Chelsea played with two strikers for the majority of the season, with Drogba and Gudjohnsen forming a great partnership. Gudjohnsen would play behind Drogba, and their pace and power helped them to score twenty-two goals between them. Drogba was also starting to gain a reputation for scoring important goals after he found the net against the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal.
2014: Costa, Drogba, Remy
Since Drogba’s departure in 2012, Chelsea have struggled to tie down a main striker. Many have tried and failed but this year Chelsea seem to have found the right man for the job. Diego Costa joined in the summer and has already scored a staggering nine goals in his first seven games. He is a big physical presence and can score a variety of different goals. Mourhino has also brought Drogba back to the club, and whether he is still at his peak is yet to be seen. To provide something a little different upfront, Loic Remy also joined this summer. The quick, clinical finisher will no doubt help his side this season.
Which is the better side?
Overall, there are a number of similarities between the two squads. Both have a solid and reliable back four and a physical midfield with an array of creative talent. Up top they both have a variety of different types of strikers, either strong and powerful or pacey.
Personally I believe that the 2014 squad is the best squad of the Abramovich era. With some remaining members of the 2004 squad still playing today, I think the 2014 squad edges it as a result of the flair and creativity they have in midfield.