For the last two seasons Manchester City have been premier league champions, picking up 198 points over the two campaigns and receiving deserved plaudits along the way. They are regularly defined as the ‘best’ side ever in the Premier League, but are they better than Jose Mourinho’s original Chelsea team from 2005?
Both sides feature a host of world class talent and it’d certainly be a debate over which starting 11 is better.
Chelsea 2004/2005 XI;
Manchester City 2018/2019 XI;
There is no doubt that both sides are star-studded but one key thing to notice is the formations. Chelsea’s side set up in a classic Mourinho 4-2-3-1 which allowed them to be rock solid defensively, as well as playing quick attacking football on the break. Exploiting the wings whilst allowing Frank Lampard to make trademark runs from deep midfield to support Drogba and Gudjohnsen.
Manchester City’s side, however, demonstrates how football has changed and the way in which Pep Guardiola uses his philosophy to dominate games. A 4-3-3 system allowed this year’s City side to dominate possession with an overall average of over 64% and utilising inverted wingers who can cut inside to create chances, take shots and find overlapping fullbacks.
Both sides brought home the Premier League title, and did so in style – in terms of starting lineups there’s not much to separate the teams and the statistics provide an interesting insight into their different qualities:
Games W/D/L (Points)
In summary, the stats show clearly the differences between the two sides. Chelsea possessed, as expected under Josè, an inexplicably good defence and managed a staggering 25 clean sheets in the ’04/05 Premier League season. With only 15 goals conceded there’s no doubt that Mourinho’s Chelsea were a force at the back and the partnership between John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho has gone down as one of the best in the league’s history. Don’t get it twisted, though. This Blues side did not play defensive ‘boring’ football, 72 goals scored was a very good return and represented the second highest tally in the league. With 13 goals, Frank Lampard was Chelsea’s highest scorer which is lower than may be expected for a title winning sides main goal threat, but Drogba and Gudjohnsen also chipped in with double figures in what was the Ivorian’s first season at the club. Petr Cech picked up 24 clean sheets in the Premier League 2004/05 season which is a record that still stands to this day, in what was also his first season with the club. In terms of being a solid, reliable and extremely efficient side, Jose Mourinho’s men could be the greatest ever in the Premier League.
The attacking quality of Manchester City can’t be questioned. 95 league goals this season with Aguero, Sterling and Sanè all into double figures. Utter domination to turn games into a no-contest is the philosophy of this ruthless City side and they probably have the edge over the Chelsea team in that sense. However, despite winning the league with an astonishing 98 points there were moment that Pep’s side looked fragile – something Chelsea could never be accused of in the 2004/05 season. The Cityzens lost 4 games this season in the league, the Chelsea side were just one game away from being invincible – picking up one solitary loss (ironically against City, with Anelka scoring a penalty). Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Leicester and Newcastle all grabbed wins against Man City this season and all exposed gaps and fragility in the defence of Guardiola’s side. Towards the end of the season they did manage to start grinding out tough fixtures and picked up a number of 1-0 wins in the title run-in, but Josè’s Chelsea side would happily grind out results all season long and knew how to get over the line in tight games from August all the way to May.
In a match against each other, who wins? Football manager can tell us!
This is of course a very hypothetical situation but one that we’d love to find out the answer to. It’s quiet obvious how this match would pan-out if it were to happen: Josè Mourinho mind games to rattle Manchester City in the build up where he most likely describes them as a ‘big horse’ to pin his own side as the underdogs as well as pointing out how much money Guardiola has spent on players. City dominate possession but are frustrated by the discipline, quality and work rate of Chelsea’s back line and the Blue’s provide a constant threat on the break – with Robben and Duff causing havoc in the space left behind the marauding fullbacks. Would Chelsea snatch a well-earned victory or would the ruthless possession of Manchester City pay off? Let’s be honest, it’s impossible to call.
I thought the only way of deciding would be through Football Manager 2019.
So, using a bit of in-game editor magic and my limited skills I re-created the 2004/05 Chelsea side and pinned them against the modern Manchester City in a one-off game. In what was a rather anti-climatic spectacle the game ended 0-0. As expected, Manchester City had the majority share of possession with 59% but were limited to 10 shots with just 3 on target in the entire match. Chelsea did provide a threat on the counter but only managed one major clear cut chance, with Gudjohnsen dashing beyond Didier Drogba to get onto the end of the Ivorians’ through ball but he put his shot into the side netting from what was a slightly wide angle. The man of the match was William Gallas with an 8.1 match rating, who slotted in next to John Terry at centre-back after Carvalho had to limp off injured in the first half.
So, not even Football Manager can answer the question – Chelsea 2004/05 or Manchester City 2018/19, Who’s Better? I guess that says something, it’s impossible to truly know which side was better and football has changed dramatically in the the 15 year gap between the two sides but there’s no doubt the two philosophies are successful in their own right. However deep down, we know Drogba would score the winner really.
Let us know who you think was the better side (we assume it’s Chelsea!)
Written by Dan Barker | @danbarkzr
*R.e FM19 simulation – This was done by editing the current database in-game and making Chelsea’s squad equivalent to their 2004/05 squad. This required the stats of players to be adjusted to reflect their real-life ability at the time. This was then put into a simulated game against Manchester City’s current side – with tactics downloaded that represent the different playing styles of each team. (Basically, it may not have been 100% accurate but is as close as I could possibly achieve)