Looking Back at Chelsea’s 2004/05 Record-Breaking Season

José Mourinho earned his iconic nickname, ‘The Special One’ during his first tenure at Chelsea, and rightfully so. Mourinho brought glory back to Chelsea, as he and the Blues created an unforgettable legacy together.

Decades later, Mourinho is still Chelsea’s most successful manager ever. The Portuguese spent several seasons at Chelsea, but his most memorable one has to be the 2004/05 season. It was only Mourinho’s first season in charge of the Blues, but his impact was instant. The Portuguese coach led the Blues to the Premier League title, and while doing so, broke many records.

A key turning point of the Roman Abramovich era was when José Mourinho was called up to serve as head coach at Stamford Bridge. Along with the addition of quality players, the investments made by Abromavich proved to be very fruitful.

The summer transfer window before the start of the 2004/05 season

June 2003, was the start of a new era for Chelsea – the Abramovich era. Claudio Ranieri was the first manager to work under Roman Abramovich, with the Italian having been manager since 2000. At the end of the 2004 season, despite Chelsea finishing runners-up behind Arsenal’s ‘invincibles’ and reaching the UEFA Champions League semifinals, the club let Ranieri go.

The man who was called up to replace Ranieri was José Mourinho. At the time, he was only 41, but he had already won the Champions League, UEFA Cup and domestic league title in his homeland. He was a promising manager.

Mourinho was not the only big investment made by Chelsea that season. Following their disappointment of losing the league title to Arsenal in the prior season, Chelsea doubled down on their investment and strengthened their squad for title contention. As Chelsea has always been famous for, the club spared no expense. Chelsea signed eight players in the summer transfer window, and most notable was the signing of five players whose costs exceeded £10 million each – a large figure at the time.

Those five major signings included the prolific Ivorian striker Didier Drogba from Marseille and the steadfast defender Ricardo Carvalho from Mourinho’s previous club, Porto. Additionally, Portuguese defender Paulo Ferreira joined, also making the transition from Porto to Stamford Bridge. Surprisingly, Petr Čech was not one of the expensive signings.

How Mourinho’s tactics strengthened Chelsea

Mourinho and Chelsea’s revamped squad proved their worth instantly. With his introduction of the 4-3-3 formation from the 4-4-2 diamond, Chelsea went on to have a record-breaking and unforgettable 2004/05 season.

In Mourinho’s 4-3-3 formation, Chelsea had quite the defensive setup anchored by Claude Makelele, who provided a solid foundation for the team’s tactical approach. With John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho forming an impenetrable central defensive partnership, Čech guarded the goal remarkably. This resulted in one of the toughest setups in all of English football history.

This emphasis on defence laid the foundation for their offensive play. Mourinho’s tactics allowed Chelsea to dominate games both defensively and offensively. Barely ever caught off guard, Chelsea often got pressured deliberately, before going on counterattacks. In these moments of swift transition, wingers Damien Duff and newcomer Arjen Robben displayed their speed, directness, and lethal finishing. The tactical shift saw the likes of Drogba leading the attack, with the support of wingers Duff and Robben. The trio often proved to be lethal threats in counterattacks.

Frank Lampard thrived in a slightly more advanced box-to-box role within the 4-3-3 formation. With increased freedom to express his attacking instincts, Lampard became a pivotal figure for Chelsea. The midfielder had a total of 13 goals while also leading the Premier League in assists with 18. He greatly contributed significantly to Chelsea’s dominance in midfield and their overall success in securing the Premier League title.

That same season, Mourinho lifted more silverware. In addition to the Premier League title, the EFL Cup and FA Community Shield were also his by the end of his first season at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea’s success was a wonderful whole team effort, but it was especially spearheaded by Čech, Terry and Carvalho’s commanding presence at the back, as well as Frank Lampard’s midfield prowess, Makelele’s defensive solidity, and Drogba’s clinical finishing.

The records that Chelsea broke that season

Chelsea won the Premier League title for the first time in 50 years that season with a record-breaking 95 points.

Čech had an 87.3% save percentage that season. It is still the highest ever in the league to this day. He and his defensive line in front of him conceded only 15 goals throughout the entire campaign – a truly remarkable record that is yet to be broken.

Čech also had a total record of 24 clean sheets that campaign. This defensive solidity allowed Chelsea to face the fewest shots on target (83) since records began in 2003/04 – yet another record.

The fewest goals conceded away in a season record still belongs to Chelsea, with only nine.

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