On Saturday Chelsea lost 2-1 away to Newcastle United, and in doing so lost their first game of the season in any competition. Prior to Saturday’s game, in the Premiership they had played 14 matches, and had won 11 and drawn 3, with no defeats. This record went on Saturday with defeat to Newcastle and, with Manchester City winning, Chelsea’s lead at the top of the Premiership has been cut from 6 to 3 points.
In the lead-up to Saturday’s game Chelsea’s manager Jose Mourinho stirred things up by saying that Newcastle only really competed against Chelsea, and in their other matches acted as if they were playing friendlies! I can only assume that Mourinho was trying to deflect pressure away from his players, as I’m sure the whole Chelsea camp have felt the weight of expectations increase as their season continued without a defeat.
In fact, Mourinho has never won with Chelsea at Newcastle’s Saint James Park, and he would have been well aware of this. I’m not too sure, but I suspect Newcastle are the only Premier team where Mourinho is yet to register an away win. He is recently quoted as saying that going the whole season undefeated was “an impossible task”, and it may be that having now suffered their first defeat of the season a weight will be lifted off of his and his team’s shoulders.
It was before I started this blog, but I do vividly remember Arsenal’s undefeated Premiership season in 2004/05, which was truly a remarkable achievement. I also remember having a discussion with some friends around Easter 2005 when Arsenal were still in the F.A. Cup and Champions League, and Wenger had to decide which of the three competitions to prioritise with 3 games in the space of a week (one in each of the competitions). My own take was that he should prioritise retaining the unbeaten Premiership record, as it had not been done in over 100 years. As it turned out, it was the only one of the three in which they succeeded, but going a whole season undefeated in the league is a far greater achievement in my opinion than winning any knock-out cup.
On paper, Chelsea have a relatively easy next four games. Tomorrow (Wednesday) they play Sporting Lisbon at home in the Champions League, followed by what should be a straight forward Premiership match against Hull at home on Saturday (13th). On Tuesday the 16th they have an away match against Derby in the League Cup, and then a break of almost a week before they play Stoke away in the Premiership on Monday the 22nd. As I say, on paper these four matches should be straightforward for Chelsea, but then again on paper they should have defeated Newcastle.