Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has recently rubbished the idea of his or any Premier League side replicating the Arsenal ‘Invincibles’ of 2003-04 ever again.
He’s got a point – it’s certainly unlikely, after all before Arsenal managed it 11 seasons ago, Preston North End were the last side to do so in England’s top division back in the 1880’s. That’s a long wait for a repeat, and unless somebody lived for 120+ years, they wouldn’t have seen it done twice. With that in mind, to Arsene Wenger it would have seemed incredibly unlikely before the 2003-04 season commenced that his side could even entertain the idea of going unbeaten. But they managed it, with a very strong side who were willing to play for draws in order to go unbeaten, and their historic season led them to subsequent Premier League glory. A very impressive feat, and not to be taken lightly.
But it can happen again – it’s as likely today as it ever was. It’s still unlikely, there’s no doubting that – but Mourinho’s Chelsea side is definitely good enough this season. Arsene Wenger would have told you it was impossible in the Premiership era (as it was then) to go unbeaten, and Mourinho will tell you the same now – and I don’t believe for a second that he has managed to convince himself that it is impossible. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s what he aims to do each season. He certainly doesn’t expect to lose against any side.
And after seven Premier League games so far this season Chelsea are unbeaten, having won six of them. They’ve already managed to get past Man City and Arsenal and their squad depth is plenty big enough to manage the Champions League along with domestic competitions, something which is absolutely necessary in the modern era.
Jose doesn’t see it happening in today’s game due to the competitiveness of the Premier League, and I appreciate that the overall quality of the Premier League has improved to the stage where there literally is no easy game. But if you asked anyone to predict who was going to win the title at the start of the season, around 90% would have predicted either Man City or Chelsea, and that will be the case – not particularly competitive this race for the title. The gap between Chelsea and the lesser sides has never been bigger.
The fact that Mourinho is having to even talk about the possibility of going unbeaten shows how close he is to achieving it. Everyone knows that he has arguably the best squad in the Premier League from defence right through to his prolific strikeforce. But not only that, Jose plays a tactical game and is prepared to sit deep (or park the bus) in order to grind out a result, something which many Premier League managers with similar strength squads wouldn’t, Manuel Pellegrini for one.
That tactical prowess has to increase the chances of Chelsea going unbeaten this season, and even if not this year which is certainly possible, he has many to come in which to make that extra step – you can play it down all you want Jose, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t do the unthinkable.