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Opinion: Why Mourinho's Chelsea will never match the Arsenal 'Invincibles'

The side’s often cautious outlook means they cannot truly emulate the Gunners.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has a reputation for setting teams up in a cautious manner.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has a reputation for setting teams up in a cautious manner.

IT WAS PATRICK Vieira, the captain of Arsenal’s famous ‘Invincibles’ side, who suggested last week that Chelsea could replicate that team’s achievements in 2003-04 and finish this season unbeaten.

It seems fanciful to suggest the feat being matched so soon, but even if the Blues could manage to navigate the campaign without losing a single match, they still wouldn’t hold a candle to the Invincibles.

Not while Jose Mourinho is still in charge at Stamford Bridge.

The Portuguese manager is the best coach in the business and Chelsea are already cruising towards the Premier League title this season.

But for all Chelsea’s attractive attacking football this season — in the poorest Premier League for years — he will never send his teams out with the same swashbuckling intent to entertain as Arsenal did 11 seasons ago.

Certainly not in the big matches and Sunday’s 1-1 draw at Manchester United was a case in point.

“We don’t look to others, we look to ourselves,” reflected Mourinho after Robin van Persie’s late equaliser for the hosts. “Old Trafford is one of the most dangerous fixtures we have. The result is not the result we want, but the way we performed means we don’t need to look to others.”

But if Chelsea failed to get the result they wanted, it is in no small part down to the way Mourinho instructed his team to play in the closing stages. While the Portuguese’s cautiousness has helped his teams see out many games, they were punished on Sunday for refusing to put United to the sword.

Quite simply, Mourinho tried to shut up shop and defend a 1-0 lead when Chelsea were well on top and United were there for the taking following Didier Drogba’s 53rd minute opener.

At that stage in the match, Eden Hazard was slicing through the hosts at will and Chelsea simply looked too strong for their hosts, who played with admirable desire but didn’t have the defensive order to cope with the Londoners’ swift attacking moves.

ARSENAL V LEICESTER Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

(Arsenal went the entirety of the 2003-04 Premier League season unbeaten)

But with 23 minutes of normal time still to play, Mourinho decided to try and hold on to what he had by bringing on John Obi Mikel for Oscar.

From that moment on, the initiative shifted towards the hosts. Chelsea sat ever deeper, the gap between the midfield and Didier Drogba increased, Hazard disappeared from prominence.

Mourinho drills his players so meticulously that he would have expected them to hold on.

But the cracks were showing as they conceded chances to Robin van Persie and conceded silly free-kicks in their own half, one of which led to the Branislav Ivanovic’s red card and Van Persie’s equaliser.

Mourinho will be happy enough, but his natural instinct, that pragmatism that has won so many trophies down the years, might have cost Chelsea two points.

It was a similar story against Manchester City, their closest title rivals, in September. With a 1-0 lead and playing against 10 men, Mourinho decided to sit back and protect the score rather than bury the hosts. Chelsea were punished as Frank Lampard scored a late equaliser against his old club.

One criticism of the ‘Invincibles’ – the first team to go unbeaten over a 38-game season – is that they drew too many matches as they shared the points in 12 fixtures.

But they always did so with the intent to win and to do it in style. The same cannot be said of Chelsea under Mourinho.

by Greg Stobart, Goal.com

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