Chelsea’s win over Middlesbrough was significant for multiple reasons, not least of which was vaulting the Blues to the top of the league for the first time in 18 months. It also meant that Chelsea accomplished something that had only been done nine times previously in the Premier League.
10 - Premier League clubs have won 6+ games in a row without conceding on 10 occasions, with Chelsea responsible for half of those. Epic.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 20, 2016
6-win runs in one PL season without conceding:— MisterChip (English) (@MisterChiping) November 20, 2016
CHL: 04-05* 05-06* 06-07 16-17(?)
MNU: 07-08* 08-09* 12-13*
Presumably the difference between the two tweets (10 teams vs. 8 teams) is that Opta’s counting streaks that stretch from one season to the next. But Mister Chip provides more detail, so let’s take a brief look.
While this only applies to the last 25 years, with the Premiership becoming a reality only in 1992, it’s nonetheless an impressive accomplishment. It also underlines something that Jose Mourinho used to talk about a lot, namely that the league used to be “easier” ten years ago, back in his first stint at Chelsea. Between 2004-05 and 2008-09, there was at least one such streak in each an every season. Since then, only two teams have accomplished it, Manchester United in 2012-13 (Sir Alex Ferguson’s last season full of all sorts of black magic that got a halfway decent side to dominate the league) and Chelsea just now. Most teams that have accomplished this have gone on to win the title, which makes sense (defense wins championships, as the cliche goes) and is a good omen to remember as we head into the next couple very tough games.
For Chelsea, this sort of defensive prowess has not been seen since the aforementioned Jose Mourinho, Fortress Stamford Bridge, and the truly impenetrable Chelsea defenses of the day, built around the likes of John Terry, William Gallas, Ricardo Carvalho, and Petr Čech in goal.
Starting with a 4-0 win over Norwich City on December 18, 2004, Chelsea would not concede a Premier League goal for 10 matches, incidentally until we played the reverse fixture against the Canaries and Leon McKenzie scored (McKenzie’s now apparently a boxer?!). That 10-match streak included a club record 8 wins in a row with a clean sheet, which equalled the European record held by Partizan Belgrade and Skonto Riga. Chelsea’s defensive record (just 15 conceded all season) and points total (95) from 2004-05 remain all-time Premier League bests.
Chelsea’s 2005-06 streak was exactly 6 games long, and occurred right at the beginning of the season, starting with a 1-0 last-gasp win over Wigan (Hernan Crespo!) and ending with Aston Villa youngster Luke Moore finding the back of the net on matchday 7. Luke Moore has not turned to boxing just yet, though he did get released by Toronto FC earlier this season.
Chelsea started slower the following season, but did eventually go on to match the 8-game streak of clean sheets and wins from two seasons prior towards the end of the campaign (Jan 31 — Apr 7, 2007). The Blues were bidding for a quadruple at that point still, but would end up with just the two domestic cup titles.
The season prior, Liverpool also matched this 8-game streak, with clean sheet wins stretching from October 29 to December 26, 2005. The Rafalution fell short of the title thanks to poor results in January and early February. Liverpool’s defense (25 conceded) was almost as good as Chelsea’s that season (22 conceded), but their attack was 15 goals worse off than the Blues.
Manchester United’s streak in 2007-08 was only six matches long (and included a 2-0 win over Chelsea in Avram Grant’s first match in charge) but their 2008-09 streak was a rather tremendous 9 games long and was part of a 14-match streak of not conceding a league goal. Edwin van der Sar came within 80 minutes of beating Dany Verlinden’s all-time European mark for consecutive clean sheets. The Club Brugge goalkeeper went 1390 minutes without conceding in 1990.
How long can Chelsea keep this going? The club record for consecutive league wins is 11, stretching from the end of 2008-09 through the first six games of Carlo Ancelotti’s tenure. The record if we limit the streak to be contained within one season is the 10 in a row won from mid-November to mid-January in 2005-06 (part of Mourinho’s Chelsea winning 20 of the first 22 games of that season).
The current streak (wins or clean sheets) might end as soon as next weekend, which would be tragic in multiple ways. Or it might end the weekend after that, which would be a bit more palatable, though still undesirable. Wins against both Spurs and Manchester City is not something I would bet on, but having said that, the rest of Chelsea’s December schedule then includes West Brom (H), Sunderland (A), Crystal Palace (A), Bournemouth (H), and Stoke City (H) — all bottom half of the table currently, except Bournemouth. We could be looking at a another nice, long winning streak and a genuine title challenge.