We're now 25 games into the Andre Villas-Boas era and the media seem to be champing at the bit to criticize the young manager. Since 25 is a nice round number and gives us a somewhat relevant sample, I thought today might be a great opportunity to compare this year's Chelsea team to last year's version and see where we stand in comparison. Through 25 games last season, Chelsea had played 1 Carling Cup game, 6 Champions League games, and 18 Premier League games. Through 25 fixtures this season, Chelsea have played 3 Carling Cup games, 6 Champions League games, and 16 Premier League games.
Carling Cup - Chelsea had a very similar approach to the Carling Cup in both seasons. Chelsea under Ancelotti drew Newcastle in the third round and lost an extremely entertaining game on penalties. Chelsea under AVB took the same youthful approach to the cup, winning their first game against Fulham on penalties, defeating Everton 2-1, and finally losing to Liverpool 1-2 in the quarterfinal. In neither season did we face non-Premier League opposition, and I'd say we took the same basic approach to the competition in both seasons.
Ancelotti Chelsea were involved in a wide open contest which ended 3-3 before the penalty shootout. AVB Chelsea were much better defensively, allowing only 3 goals over 3 games while scoring the same. While the results would seem to suggest we were better in this competition in 2011/12, I'd say the fact that both openers went to penalties against relatively similar level opposition and the overall GD makes our results in both seasons a push.*
*So we didn't go to penalties in 2010...nice research eh?
Champions League - In both 2010/11 and 2011/12 Chelsea managed to top their Champions League group and advance to the knockout round. Ancelotti Chelsea did so in very comfortable fashion, winning their first 5 games before losing a meaningless final game against Marseille. AVB Chelsea had a more difficult time securing advancement, needing a final day victory against Valencia to advance. In that sense Carlo's 5 wins and 1 loss would look much more impressive than AVB's 3 wins, 2 draws, and 1 loss. Goals for and against was very similar over the two campaigns. The Ancelotti squad scored 14 goals while conceding 4 in winning their group. The AVB squad scored 13 while conceding 4 in their group topping campaign.
The strength of the two respective groups seems to be a major variable here. 2010/11 Chelsea drew a relatively easy group featuring Marseille (2nd in Ligue 1), Spartak Moscow (2nd in the Russian Premier League), and MSK Zilina (2nd in the Slovakian League). 2011/12 Chelsea, on the other hand, drew a very difficult group. Their opponents featured Bayer Leverkusen (2nd in the Bundesliga), Valencia (3rd in La Liga), and Genk (Belgian champions). So while results would suggest Ancelotti Chelsea had the better group phase, strength of schedule seems to be very heavily in favor of AVB Chelsea. When considering both factors, I'd once again call 2010/11 and 2011/12 about a push as far as overall results go.
Premier League - This is certainly the bread and butter part of the season and the real reason the tabloid media believes Chelsea are in crisis. Through 25 fixtures in 2010/11 the club had played 18 PL fixtures. They had an overall record of 10 wins, 5 losses, and 3 draws at this point in the campaign. They had scored 33 goals while conceding 16 for a GD of +17. Their 33 points through 18 games had them at 1.83 points per game and on pace for 70 points (they'd finish with 71).
2011/12 Chelsea have played 16 contests thus far and are sitting on 32 points. They've won 10 times, lost 4, and drawn twice. They've scored 34 times while conceding 19 for an overall GD of +15. Their 2 ppg average has them on pace to finish on 76 points this season with both goals scored and conceded looking to increase from last season. At this point it appears that 2011/12 Chelsea look the better side domestically, although it is close.
Draw whatever conclusions you wish from the results thus far, but to me it appears that Chelsea have actually improved slightly thus far this season. The goal difference is nearly identical in the two seasons while Chelsea have gone further in the Carling Cup, achieved the same end result in the Champions League, and are looking like they'll finish with a better total in the Premier League despite probably facing better overall competition across the board. They've done all of this while transitioning to a younger squad and allowing many of their old guard to finish their contracts out. Say what you will about Carlo or AVB, but the reality is that it's hard to realistically fault AVB for having us exactly where we probably should be at this point in the season.