The first team in English Football that managed to go an entire campaign unbeaten was Preston North End in the 1880s. That remarkable feat earned them not only the Football League (as it was then known) & FA Cup titles, but the title of ‘Invincibles’. Since that time, quite a few football teams around Europe have managed to go unbeaten (for an entire season) – Just not in England. That changed however during the 2003/2004 English Premier League season.
During the 2003/2004 English Premier League season, Arsenal achieved something that was never done before in the Premier League era. They managed to go the entire season unbeaten. Winning 26 & drawing 12 of their 38 matches on the way to their 13th title. Early in that season, Manchester United had an opportunity to stop the Arsenal run before it gained momentum. The two teams met at Old Trafford in a match that proved to be a close & testy encounter. The match eventually ended 0-0 but not before Ruud van Nistelrooy missed an injury time penalty for Manchester United. At the final whistle a small brawl ensued & a number of players from both teams were eventually charged by The Football Association. Arsenal would face similar scares throughout the season but finished the season without tasting defeat.
Arsenal’s unbeaten run continued into the 2004/2005 English Premier League season where they were eventually defeated by Manchester United 2-0 in a controversial encounter. The unbeaten run stopped at 49-0.
Fast forward to the 2014/2015 English Premier League season & the ‘Invincibles’ title is being kicked around after just 10 games (Now 11 games). Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea have started the campaign by winning 8 & drawing 2 of their first 10 matches (Now 9 Wins and 2 Draws). Though it is still early in the season, when you look at the caliber of players in the Chelsea squad, the comparisons might be justified. Lets look at the ‘Invincible‘ Arsenal team of 2003/2004 and the present Chelsea team:
Midfield: Arsenal: Silva, Veira, Ljungberg vs Chelsea: Fabregas, Ramires, Matic. Result – Tie
Defense: Arsenal: Cole, Toure, Campbell, Lauren, Lehmann vs Chelsea: Azpilicueta, Cahill, Terry, Ivanovic, Courtois. Result – Chelsea
It is very hard to separate the two teams as far as Starting 11. It’s even more difficult when you are comparing players who have finished their careers versus players who are still playing. Arsenal had three of the greatest players to ever play in the EPL in their starting 11. If we are comparing entire squads then Chelsea would be the clear winners.
Record after first 10 games: Arsenal – 8 Wins, 2 Draws, 0 Losses, Chelsea – 8 Wins, 2 Draws, 0 Losses.
Goals Scored: Arsenal – 26, Chelsea – 26.
Goals Conceded: Arsenal – 7, Chelsea – 10.
It’s never easy comparing teams from different periods in time. There are many factors to consider; the quality of the opponents and the spending power of the teams immediately comes to mind. Presently, the EPL is a lot more competitive than it was 11 years ago.
Can this Chelsea team go the entire season unbeaten? Yes they can! Do I expect them to finish the season unbeaten? No I don’t! What do you think?