Arsena, Chelsea


By Ozulumba John I

October 19, 2014

If anyone had a feeling that Chelsea’s class of 2014 have a traceable similarities with the Arsenal class of 2004, the person might not be too far from the reality on ground.

Jose Mourinho seems to have sculpted this season’s squad in an almost identical style to his title winners of a decade ago. Some of his decision-making has been spookily similar.

For example, back in the summer of 2004 he released two much-loved senior players (Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Marcel Desailly) to make room for fresh blood; he swapped his popular goalkeeper (Carlo Cudicini) for a younger more promising model (Petr Cech); and after loaning out a big-money striker who had struggled for form (Hernan Crespo) he signed a big, powerful centre-forward from overseas who revelled in bullying defenders (Didier Drogba). Any of that strike a chord with what has happened in west London this summer?

On the pitch Mourinho’s tactical approach also shares several parallels with the side who won the title by 12 points that season, finishing the campaign with just one defeat to their name.

The make-up of his favoured four-man rear guard contains three natural central defenders, just as it did back then, with the right back also more naturally inclined to join in with their attacks than the man on the other side.

In midfield Mourinho has stopped rotating his central midfielders, always selecting Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas when fit; just as he did with an ever-present pairing who closely resembled them in style during 2004/05, Claude Makelele and Frank Lampard.

Out wide he is once again equipped with attacking midfielders who can switch flanks with ease, and in attack his plan is built around an aggressive striker in his mid-20s (Diego Costa) who is hungry, just as Drogba was, to make an impression in English football.

The momentum and the winning mentality of the class of 2004 are overwhelmingly visible in the class of 2014 as perceived in all their games so far this season.

A close follower of this flamboyant club doesn’t need to think twice in accepting this fact.

Another striking similarity exists in William Gallas who represents the class of 2004 and Cesar Azpilicueta who represents the class of 2014.

Both are right footed players but were used in the left flank where they have performed remarkably well.

We all know how difficult it was to beat Gallas on a one and one situation back then and Azpilicueta is replicating exactly the same type of ability in the current Chelsea defence.

If this is a coincidence or not, only Jose Mourinho can tell and whether the Chelsea manager’s approach this season has been deliberate or subconscious we cannot be sure, but the comparisons are unmistakable.