The celebrations are over. For Jose Mourinho and Chelsea, last year’s title is old news. The Blues have new targets to hit, and can’t dwell on past successes if they want to be lifting trophies against next spring.
But for the supporters, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying ourselves. Since Carlo Ancelotti’s double in 2010, Chelsea had only managed to be serious title contenders once, in Jose Mourinho’s first season. Otherwise, they were nowhere to be seen, and a side that had gotten used to sitting at the top of the Premier League was forced into scurrying about in the hunt for the Champions League places.
It’s impossible to call the title win in 2010 the last hurrah of our first great squad — we had a night to remember in Munich two years later — but there’s been a changing of the guard since the 8-0 thumping we dealt Wigan to pip Manchester United to the title five years ago. Mourinho’s band of little horses are starting to grow up, and if they hit the heights they’re meant to we’ll look back on last season as their first step forward on their way towards a dynasty.
So while the Blues are busying themselves with preparations for another season, there’s nothing wrong with appreciating what they accomplished last year. A Premier League title is a rare and fine thing — let’s re-live it together with this timeline.
Chelsea’s chase for their first league title in five years began in Burnley on a Monday evening, and it did not begin auspiciously. The Blues went 1-0 down after botching a corner and allowing Scott Arfield to smash beyond the helpless Thibaut Courtois, but the game was turned on its head thanks to the contributions of Cesc Fabregas, who set up new boy Diego Costa’s opening goal with a backheel before playing perhaps the assist of the season to André Schürrle for a 2-1 lead. Branislav Ivanovic finished things off with a header, and a rampant Chelsea could have won by even more.
Despite the early setback, the Burnley match was a promising start, and it set the tone for Chelsea’s play for most of autumn.
Despite a comfortable-looking scoreline, Leicester gave Chelsea some real problems in the home opener. The visitors’ defence held for most of the match, and the Blues didn’t manage to go ahead until midway through the second half, when Diego Costa stabbed past Kasper Schmeichel for a 1-0 lead. The danger wasn’t over - Thibaut Courtois was forced into some crucial saves on Leicester breakaways - but Eden Hazard sealed the victory with his first goal of the year.
The ‘attractive football’ of the early season so beloved by the pundits reached its absurd pinnacle in Chelsea's visit to Goodison Park at the end of August. Rampant on the attack, the Blues raced out to a 2-0 lead inside the opening few minutes thanks to Diego Costa and Branislav Ivanovic, but their kamikaze play also let Everton back into the match. A bizarre second half saw the two sides trade goals repeatedly until Thibaut Courtois finally pulled off a brilliant save from Kevin Mirallas to break the momentum, allowing Costa to cap off the match after John Obi Mikel played him in with a delicious backheel.
Frankly it’s amazing that Jose Mourinho didn’t spontaneously combust during this match.
The Blues took an extra 45 minutes to return from the international break and were made to pay for it by Swansea, who had a much better start and seemed set to ride a John Terry own goal into a 1-0 halftime lead. But Diego Costa had other ideas, equalising just before the interval from a corner and then going on a merry rampage in the second half, scoring two more to earn his first hattrick in Chelsea colors. After his second, the Blues were completely out of sight.
A visit to Manchester City tends to be the most difficult fixture on Chelsea’s schedule, and we were fortunate to get the toughest test of the campaign out of the way early on. There was some extra spice thanks to the presence of club legend Frank Lampard on the hosts’ bench, but the Blues took to the hostile atmosphere, contriving to get Pablo Zabaleta sent off after the break and making the most of the advantage with a brilliant counterattacking goal.
And then they turned off, and Lampard himself was summoned to score the equaliser. Fortunately there was already a hefty points gap between Chelsea and City, but the goal stung badly nonetheless, taking much of the early-season wind out of the supporters’ sails. It wouldn’t be the last time in the season that Chelsea were second best late on despite playing against 10 …
… but they bounced back from the disappointment at the Etihad with a comfortable home win against an anaemic Aston Villa. Oscar had Chelsea ahead inside ten minutes with a simple goal, and Diego Costa found himself back on the scoresheet just before the hour mark before setting up Willian to finish things off. These were three of the more nondescript points of the season, but the media frenzy around Jose Mourinho’s slightly early post-match handshake was tremendously amusing.
Arsenal arrived at Stamford Bridge in terrible form, and Chelsea plunged the knife in yet further. It wasn’t a 6-0 battering, but it was plenty embarrassing - the Gunners were thoroughly outclassed and Eden Hazard put the Blues in front more or less by himself, winning and converting a penalty 27 minutes in. Cesc Fabregas, whose mere presence upset the visitors to an absurd (and amusing) degree, and Diego Costa combined to make it 2-0 with ten minutes to go, leaving Alexis Sanchez so frustrated that he decided to punch Branislav Ivanovic in the head. The Serbian barely noticed, which left the incident as the perfect metaphor for Arsenal attack against Chelsea defence.
A screaming free kick from Oscar set the Blues on their way to redeeming themselves from the previous season’s defeat at Selhurst Park, but the win — which marked John Terry’s 500th appearance as Chelsea captain — was very nearly sent off the rails by Cesar Azpilicueta, who managed to get himself shown a straight red card before halftime. Fortunately, Palace replied with one of their own when Damien Delaney was shown a second yellow moments later.
After Cesc Fabregas popped up with a ‘scandalously’ good goal, everything went Chelsea’s way until the final few minutes, when the gloss was taken off the score with a late consolation goal for the hosts.
A late goal conceded at Crystal Palace was harmless; Robin van Persie’s last-ditch strike at Old Trafford was anything but. Chelsea, without Diego Costa, went with Didier Drogba up top, and the Ivorian looked like his old self in powering in a near-post header to give the Blues a 1-0 lead after the break. But it wasn’t to last - Branislav Ivanovic was sent off for no apparent reason during injury time, and van Persie was on hand to stab home the resultant free kick.
Queens Park Rangers had been diabolical for most of the season, so it was only natural that Chelsea struggled at home against them. Oscar opened the scoring with one of the goals of the year, bending in a peach of a right-footed shot from a tight angle, but Charlie Austin drew the visitors level just after the hour mark. A late penalty salvaged the points, but this was perhaps the least impressive win of the first half of the season.
This was more like it. Despite going 1-0 down early thanks to a deflected strike from Emre Can, the Blues made it back-to-back wins at Anfield through Gary Cahill and Diego Costa. Liverpool’s lead lasted just five minutes before Cahill fired practically through Simon Mignolet on a corner kick, and Costa finished the job after Cesar Azpilicueta turned Philippe Coutinho inside out on the Chelsea left. Late handball shout aside, a comfortable enough win.
West Bromwich Albion practically handed this match to Chelsea. The opening goal came after just 11 minutes, when Diego Costa - so thoroughly unmarked that he was able to control the ball before blasting in a volley - converted an Oscar cross. Somehow the Baggies’ defence was even less responsive for the second, which involved them forgetting that Eden Hazard existed as the Blues took a corner kick. Easy.
Perhaps the first truly disappointing result of the season. Chelsea went into their match at the Stadium of Light on a three-match winning run, and hadn’t been held scoreless in any game since a 0-0 draw against Norwich in the previous season. But the offence completely failed to click. The closest the Blues got to breaking the deadlock was a shot from Willian that clanged off the base of the post; otherwise Sunderland were comfortable. The draw, which came as everyone in England was talking about whether or not Chelsea might go through the entire season unbeaten, was the harbinger of the Blues disappointing those hopes a week later.
But before the Blues could manage their first loss of the season, there was a routine win against Tottenham Hotspur to take care of. The visitors were ascendant for the first 15 minutes, but Eden Hazard and Didier Drogba took advantage of some appalling defending to put Chelsea in cruise control, and Loic Remy rounded off the 3-0 victory with a neat second-half goal.
The Invicible run had to end sometime, and judgeing by how bored Jose Mourinho looked when asked about it, he wasn’t all that cut up about his first loss of the season. But the performance wasn’t good - Chelsea were toothless up front until a late red card for Newcastle’s Steven Taylor, and by the time Didier Drogba got the Blues on the board it was already too late to entertain much hope of a comeback. Newcastle had secured victory through Papiss Cissé, pretty much like every other time we’ve had to play at St. James’ Park recently.
Would there be a sustained drop in form? Not if Eden Hazard had anything to do with it. The little Belgian scored only the second headed goal of his career, nodding in Oscar’s 7th-minute cross, and although applied some pressure, Hazard helped killed them off by opening up space for Diego Costa to put away Chelsea’s second. The post-game coverage focused on Gary Cahill not being sent off for what seemed like an obvious dive while on a booking, and while we didn’t know it this yet, it would set the tone for much of the next few months.
Chelsea had been beaten at the Britannia in the 2013/14 season, but they were dominant this time around, going ahead in the first minute thanks to a John Terry header and never looking back. Stoke were completely neutered, and by the time Cesc Fabregas made it 2-0 after the break the match had been over for some time. This match was mostly notable for Nemanja Matic pulling off one of the more absurd tackles in the history of football, although since he didn’t hurt anyone in the process the Stoke fans probably didn’t think much of it.
John Terry was at it again here, scoring Chelsea’s opener at point-blank range after Diego Costa flicked a corner kick into his path. The Blues had dominated the opening exchanges, and the captain’s goal, which came just after the half-hour mark, was ample reward for some excellent play. Costa finished finished up the win with an impressive solo goal as Chelsea navigated a tricky Boxing Day fixture with aplomb.
A setback at St. Mary’s saw the invocation of Jose Mourinho’s now-infamous (and widely misinterpreted) ‘Campaign Against Chelsea’ after the failure to award a penalty for a fairly obvious second-half foul on Cesc Fabregas. In truth the Blues didn’t do nearly enough to win the match, getting hit early on by a neat Saido Mane goal and relying on a bit of magic from Eden Hazard to get to halftime at level pegging. That didn’t appease Mourinho, however, who accused the media (with some justification) of attempting to bias the referees against the Blues with non-stop critical coverage.
Said media responded with non-stop critical coverage, naturally.
Perhaps Definitely the nadir of the season. Manchester City had been on a rampage, and went into the new year just three points behind the Blues. Having watched their only real title rivals earn three points earlier in the day, Chelsea proceeded to implode at White Hart Lane, getting mangled by Harry Kane and Tottenham Hotspur despite taking an early lead through Diego Costa. Conceding five goals against Spurs is never a good look, especially when it leaves you relying on alphabetical order for your league position, but fortunately for the Blues it was entirely uphill from here.
Chelsea responded to their New Years Day embarrassment by avenging their only other loss to this point. A clever corner routine completely discombobulated the Magpies, allowing Oscar to score the opener despite the Blues looking second-best in the first half, and then Oscar popped up again with a superb backheel assist for Diego Costa to grab Chelsea’s second.
Chelsea’s most impressive result of the season came at the perfect time. After watching Manchester City lose at home to Arsenal, the Blues went out and utterly demolished Swansea, putting four goals beyond Garry Monk’s side in the first half alone. Oscar continued his fine run of form, and would have had a hattrick if not for André Schürrle poaching Chelsea’s fifth from off his toes. The only regret about the scoreline is that it could have been more.
With City having dropped five points in two matches, Chelsea knew that holding serve at Stamford Bridge would be enough to stay in control of the title race, and that’s exactly what they did, putting in a disciplined performance and holding the defending champions to a 1-1 draw. But they could and perhaps should have won it - Eden Hazard and Loïc Rémy combined to give the Blues the advantage only for a Thibaut Courtois error to gift Sergio Agüreo the equaliser shortly thereafter.
Aston Villa hadn’t scored in about three years prior to this match, so nobody was expecting them to mount a comeback after Eden Hazard’s deftly-taken early goal. Yet they did, levelling through Jores Okore just after halftime and forcing the Blues to push hard for a winner. That winner eventually arrived through Branislav Ivanovic, who thundered in an unlikely half-volley to earn Chelsea a vital three points.
If the Villa match was tight, Everton at home was even tighter. This was worlds away from the ludicrously open reverse fixture in August, and the stressful encounter took until the very last minute to decide. Willian was the hero, stroking in from just outside the box following a controversial red card for the Toffees. It was Chelsea’s first late winner of the season, and it was certainly very welcome, but we might not have needed to wait so long for a goal had the referee been a little more sensible about calling clear handballs in the box.
Speaking of refereeing controversies, this one was a doozy. After Branislav Ivanovic handed Chelsea an early lead against lowly Burnley, it looked as though the Blues would be able to blow their opponents away. Instead they were denied two penalties and went down to 10 men after Nemanja Matic was sent off for retaliating against Ashley Barnes’ ridiculous (and unpunished) tackle. Naturally, the visitors equalised.
An alternative reading of this infuriating game goes as follows: "Minutes 30, 33, 43 and 69. Don’t ask me more questions."
Eden Hazard’s second headed winner of the season proved enough to navigate a tough trip to Upton Park. With Nemanja Matic suspended after the Burnley debacle, Jose Mourinho was forced into using Kurt Zouma as a defensive midfielder, which out to have resulted in a brooding, mean sort of match. Instead we got a fireworks show, marred only by bad luck and bad finishing. Thibaut Courtois did very well to keep West Ham at bay with some great saves, and the fact that neither Willian nor Ramires managed to score after fantastic work from Hazard throughout completely beggared understanding.
Chelsea began brightly, with Branislav Ivanovic picking out Diego Costa for an early goal, but scoring was apparently the impetus for them to fall apart for the remainder of the half. A penalty put the Saints deservedly on level terms, and at halftime it felt a little like the Blues would be lucky to draw. But they turned things around, at least performance-wise, and laid siege to the Southampton goal for the remainder of the match. That they failed to find a winner was a little strange, but with a huge cushion at the top of the league, the performance was more encouraging than the points dropped were annoying.
Chelsea had made something of a habit of coughing up leads for no real reason, and they took that to extraordinary new heights when visiting the KC Stadium. Eden Hazard and Diego Costa put the Blues 2-0 to the good with a pair of excellent early goals, but the foot came off the gas before Thibaut Courtois handed Hull the equaliser by faffing about with the ball in his own box.
Costa was withdrawn through injury in the second half, but Loïc Rémy made sure that we wouldn’t miss him too much when he squirted home from Willian’s cross with what was essentially his first touch of the match.
Perhaps Chelsea’s best performance of the run-in, even though the scoreline ensured that it wouldn’t be remembered as such. The Blues were dangerous throughout, limiting Stoke to putshots from range, and had Charlie Adam’s ridiculous effort from inside his own half not found the net the pundits would have been praising an impressive defensive effort from the hosts.
As it was, Chelsea needed Loïc Rémy to save the day again, and he did just that after a weak kick out from Asmir Begovic just after the hour mark. The first goal, of course, came from the Blues' first Premier League penalty since the home game against QPR some five months earlier.
Some of Chelsea’s performances during the final stretch of the season were impressive enough but marred chiefly by bad finishing. This was not one of those games. The Blues looked tired and scrappy throughout, and they only managed to get all three points by the skins of their collective teeth, with masked marauder Cesc Fabregas finally putting them ahead with two minutes left to play. During the jubilant celebrations a QPR fan offered to fight Branislav Ivanovic, but thought better of it. Just as well; there probably wouldn’t have been enough left of him to bury otherwise.
It had hardly been a pretty run-in, but Chelsea were beginning to turn the screws, and Fabregas’ goal all but ended anyone else’s hopes of challenging the Blues for the title. There were still, however, two major obstacles to surmout.
The first of back-to-back key matches was a home contest against Manchester United. Chelsea knew that if they avoided defeat in both games — a trip to Arsenal was to follow — the title was virtually guaranteed, and set out to nullify their on-form visitors. Kurt Zouma man-marked Marouane Fellaini to oblivion, the defence held out well and Eden Hazard and Oscar did the rest, a neat backheel from the latter setting up Hazard for the game’s first and only goal. United didn’t have a serious sight of goal all match.
Louis van Gaal claimed his side should have won, either because he’s stupid or (more likely) he knows that most of the people listening to him are.
Arsenal were Chelsea’s next test and for some reason considered the most likely challengers for the title. It’s true, the Gunners had been on fine form for most of 2015, but they hadn’t faced anything quite like the Blues’ defence, and they were fairly well stifled despite playing at home. Indeed, the best scoring chance went to Chelsea when Oscar raced into the box and poked goalward, only to be poleaxed by David Ospina (who faced no punishment, of course) and forced out for the rest of the season. So that was cool.
Not that anyone had noticed while criticising the Blues’ supposed poor play, but between January 1 and the end of April, Chelsea had been behind in a match for exactly zero Premier League minutes. That run came to an end at the hands of Leicester, who went ahead just before halftime, but Didier Drogba scored early in the second half.
A win would take Chelsea to within three points of the title, and there was a certain sense of urgency in their post-interval play, which was finally consummated when John Terry poked home from a corner kick in the 77th minute. Ramires, urgency personified, wrapped things up with a stunning hit four minutes later.
The Blues were now on the verge of their first league championship since 2010.
Winning the title in style certainly isn’t the Jose Mourinho thing to do. A scrappy 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace, complete with Eden Hazard’s third(!) headed winner of the season, was enough to see the Blues crowned Premier League champions for the fourth time in their history. It certainly wasn’t a very fun match — the two sides exchanged half-chances before Hazard was brought down while bursting into the box, and although his penalty was saved by Julian Speroni he managed to head home the rebound.
With the defence holding firm against the visitors, that goal was plenty. The best team (and it wasn’t close) in the country had secured the title with three games left to spare.
We Ain't Got No History's 2015/16 season preview was edited by Joe Tweeds and designed by Graham MacAree. If you've enjoyed the work of the authors who generously donated their time to this project, please share with your friends and consider supporting The Chelsea Foundation as a way of saying thank you.Credits